Tag Archives: career

For the Love of Theatre

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while, guys. I’ve been extremely busy casting a play that I’m directing at a local community theater. Rehearsals start next week, so every moment I’m not working on one of my freelance projects, I’m figuring out things like blocking, character intention, etc.

The good news is that I’m getting paid $500 to direct this play. Most fo that will go to gas money and gifts for the actors and such, but I might even end up with a small profit I can pocket in the end.

Theater has an interesting relationship with my life. Admittedly, it holds me back from my career at times. Most jobs require that you have a flexible schedule, with evenings free for occasional long hours or overnight trips. Even my current job, which if it were full time, would be 60 hours per week, would require me to give up theater.

Every time I have to make my passion versus job decision, I cannot. Given my inability to make such a compromise, things have turned out quite well – at least for the time being. As a freelance writer with a fairly-stable part-time writing gig, I have the flexibility to direct a show in the evenings and work… during the day and in the even later evenings.

I’ve often thought about returning to graduate school for theater directing. But those $100k three-year programs seems like a terrible idea, at least financially. I was hoping my mutual fund and stocks would somehow add some of those funds to my account, but given the dismal performance of the stock market I’m actually losing money right now. Lots of it. Well, about $1035 of it to date, and most of that’s from my mutual fund.

My goal in the back of my mind is still to save up $100k by the time I turn 30 (which is in only 5.5 years, omg) and then apply to grad school for directing *OR* buy a house. If I can even save that much, that will be a tough decision to make. And as you’ve already learned from this entry, I’m no good at making decisions!

Phone Call with AT&T

The only good thing out of this situation is that I was able to call and speak with a rep from AT&T last night (so I wasn’t spending more of my Verizon cell phone minutes to deal with the saga (see here and here.)

After barking at this women for over a half hour, it seems I got somewhere. Well, sort of. She explained to me that since my account was canceled on December 24, the charge that just showed up on my statement was for Nov – Dec. Also, since my billing cycle ends on the 21, I will have one more charge appear on my account for the three days between the 21 and 24, but the rep couldn’t tell me yet how much that would be for.

As far as canceling auto pay, she said she’d gladly do that, but it usually takes one billing cycle before that’s put into effect (so, in other words, it doesn’t really matter if i do that because there’s only one more billing cycle left).

What really frustrates me is that this all should have been taken care of in October, if the women at AT&T handled our phone request properly and transfered the account then.

At the end of the conversation, I realized that trying to get reimbursed from AT&T for the charge was going to be impossible. So instead, I asked if they could send me a bill for the last three months charges, so at the very least I could forward this on to my boss so I could be reimbursed.

That sounds so simple, right?

Well… I’m told that it costs $5 per bill to have them sent to me, but I could go online to see and print them for free. I bitch at her for another 10 minutes, explaining that I can’t get into the online account because it’s under my bosses’ name with HIS information and password. She finally goes to talk to her manager and puts me on hold for another 5 minutes. Then she comes back and says she’ll mail the bills out to me. Jackpot. Well, sortof.

That’s about all I can do for now. I’ll send the bills off to my boss the second I get them and hopefully will get the $300+ back that has been withdrawn from my account.

All I can think is thank goodness I was able to make this call at night when my minutes are free!

AT&T will never, ever, ever get my business again.

AT&T Will Not Stop Billing Me!!!

Perhaps some of you remember the saga of my previous employer and the cell phone bill that kept showing up on my bank account.

In short — for my full-time reporting gig, I bought a cell phone through AT&T for work — my boss told me to do this and he would reimburse me. That all went over fine.

A few months and a firing later, the nightmare began. On the last day of work, after a long conversation with AT&T on the phone, it sounded like the account would be transfered to my boss and all would be fine.

But then the auto pay bills started showing up on my bank statement. One in December, then one in January. I finally called AT&T and after 3+ hours on the phone with them (which ended up costing me something like $100 on my Verizon cell phone that I used to call them) you’d think everything would be solved. They talked to my boss again and he re-gave them permission to transfer the account to him.

Oh… but what shows up on my bank statement this month? ANOTHER $106.41 charge from AT&T. WTF?? My boss is supposedly reimbursing me for the last two months ($109 and $106) but I haven’t gotten that check yet, and now I have to bother him and the accounts woman again asking for more money to be expensed and…

I am just so frustrated and I don’t know what to do. Not only is this costing me lots of money (which will hopefully be reimbursed at some point), it’s also costing my boss lots of money. As soon as the account is transfered to him, he was going to change the monthly plan to the lowest cost one, so he wouldn’t have to pay $106 a month. Except they just can’t seem to figure out how to transfer it to him.

Add in to the mix that this former boss of mine just had a heart attack. It’s not exactly the best time to be bugging him with this… but I also can’t keep getting charged $106 a month for a phone I no longer have!

What should I do?? Do I have any rights here? I don’t want to spend another zillion hours on the phone with AT&T because it seems that gets me nowhere.

Making a Living as a Freelance Writer

As a gift to myself for reaching $30 in my AdSense account (after only 102 blog posts and more than 12k hits, heh) I purchased a copy of Writer’s Market 2008 at the local bookstore.

Filled with over 3,500 listings for various publishing opportunities, this book is a goldmine for freelancers.

I’m just getting started on my freelance career. I’m not a typical freelancer because I work one 30-hour-per-week job that pays the rent and the bills. But I’m hoping to expand my writing experience (and monthly earnings) by being published in numerous publications.

Sending out queries to publications is tough, especially because you likely will be rejected, or even worse, never hear back. I got lucky in that early on in my career I had the opportunity to work as an editorial assistant for a magazine and obtain numerous glossy clips. But it turns out, the clips that impress the few publications I’m trying to write for aren’t the ones I wrote for the mag. Instead, they like the style stories I wrote for a few local newspapers.

If you want to get started in writing and get paid for it, I highly recommend writing for a local newspaper. You might not get paid, but you’ll get a few clips. Don’t sign up for a full-time internship unless you’re in school or right out of college. You can try to freelance for a fee, you might make $50 an article. That’s a start.

You’ve probably already checked out freelancewritinggigs.com, a website that lists daily freelance gigs. There’s occasionally something good there. But generally, you’re going to want to send queries to the editors of different magazines. Come up with a few ideas (you might think they’re stupid and they might love them!) and send off a cover letter with your pitch, and attach a few writing samples. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, all this will cost you is your time… not even $.37 for a postage stamp.

Whatever you do, if you’re just getting started, don’t think of writing opportunities as being below you. Even though I make $50 an hour for some of my freelance gigs, on average I make about $25 an hour. Sometimes I’ll do work for free because I know how valuable that work will be as a portfolio piece in the long run.

I’ll write more tips on becoming a freelance writer as I go through my own trial and error process. Thus far, I’ve been assigned one 600-700 world Q&A for a magazine. The pay is $100. I’ll probably spend 4-5 hours on it, including the interview, so that’s a good $20-$25 an hour. Hopefully the interview will go over as planned, and I’ll have a good article on my hands.

Dreams of a 401(k)

Oh 401(k), when I think about you, I touch myself.

Employers matching contributions? That’s a truly beautiful concept, and one I’ve never been able to take advantage of.

At the moment, my freelance career prohibits me from obtaining full benefits at one company. That’s how I chose to live my life, so I have to deal with the fact that my Roth IRA has lost significant amounts of money this year, while if I had been able to contribute to an employee-match 401(k) I might have at least broke even amidst this recession mess. However, I just have to go it alone. That’s my choice.

But that wasn’t always the case. My first full time job at a magazine showed me how even full-time gigs at companies don’t always equate to earning the luxury of a 401(k). That company was a bit, how-do-you-say, confused in terms of organization. We had a meeting about getting 401(k)’s where the financial companies came in and presented our options, then they came in another day and we met with the reps and signed the paperwork. Of course, since the company was not making any money, our 401(k) was not going to include a match at all. So ultimately the only benefit was that it would encourage employees to start saving (but tax-wise, most of us would probably be better off with a Roth anyway).

Next up on my job history resume, I obtained another full-time gig at a startup where I was to get stock options instead of a 401(k). I never actually earned any of those stock options because I left the company after three months. I was fired. I was bored with the topics I was writing about. And I couldn’t keep up with the pace. It was for the best.

I worry a bit about my retirement. I know it’s many years off, but I won’t have the security that my dad has. He retired early so my family is living on a tight budget now, but in a few years he’ll have access to his pension and he and my mother can live off that. What will I have to live off of in 2058? Or whenever it is I end up retiring?

Thus far I put $4000 into my Roth IRA (started in 2007). It’s down to $3600. I know… I know that investing is a long term thing. Still, I can’t help but be concerned about what my future holds. Maybe the smartest thing to do would be to get a stable full-time job at a public company or government agency. But I’m trying to balance my happiness and my future. It’s hard to find that balance. I’m worried I’m leaning too far towards happiness right now.

The Lawsuit and Rich Parents (aka, why I have $26k in my bank account at 24)

Many of you might wonder how on earth I have managed to save over $25k at 24… and to be honest, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit the truth. While I’d love to tell you all stories of how I worked my ass off through college, got an extremely well paying job the second I graduated and continued to watch my salary climb as the years passed, the reality is none of that is true.

Here’s what really happened:

I was born into an upper middle class family. My mother stayed at home. My dad was an actuary who made a strong six-figure salary. While my mother and I kept spending his hard-earned money, he still managed to save quite a bit. Additionally, his company had a pension plan and all of those old fangled tricks to keep people working at one company for their entire lives. And it worked… my dad, after dropping out of his graduate program in Physics at Cornell, ended up spending his entire life working for this one company and climbing the corporate ladder. He never seemed happy, as he certainly did not like my mother, and having to commute one hour each way into the city everyday couldn’t have helped.

But as he worked hard, I continued to reap the benefits. He saved up more than enough money to send me to a relatively expensive private institution for four years. Somehow he also managed to pay for my frequent shopping sprees to discount clothing stores. I was spoiled in an upper middle class sort of way. It’s not like I went out and bought Prada or even Coach. Designers always meant little to me, but nonetheless I had a major talent for spending heaps of cash.

If all of that were the entirety of my story, I would have graduated without debt, and with about $9k in savings thanks to dad’s “apartment for daughter after she graduates” fund. That would have been plenty more than I deserved.

But here’s the secret to my minor fortune:

In 6th grade, I broke my arm at my birthday party. I’m not quite sure whose fault that was, although my parents, our lawyer, and the judge all seemed to agree that the company running the party was at fault for negligence. As an 11-year-old, all I really wanted was an apology from the folks running my birthday party… after all, I had to leave three minutes into the festivities while the rest of my friends stayed and got to enjoy games and cake. Well, my “apology” came in the form of $15,000. Although $5000 was taken out in lawyer fees, by the time I could access the funds at 18, my bank account had grown to about that original sum.

So if you were wondering how on earth I have so much money – that’s how.

I do feel guilty about it, as I have many friends who had to take out loans to get through college and who will be paying for their education for years to come.

I’ve had the luxury to move across the country, to rent a $1050 a month apartment, and to mess up at a few jobs and figure out my career through trial and error. I’m lucky. I’m very, very lucky.

It’s hard to compare myself to others my age. I don’t know a great deal about people’s personal finances, but I have friends across the spectrum of class (ranging from “upper lower” class to “upper middle” class.)

My boyfriend’s situation is somewhat different, yet he also has money in savings and graduated with no loans. His mother has never moved out of her parents house. She’s worked consistently throughout her life, and has saved most of her income. While I was a spoiled little brat as a kid, my boyfriend never experienced the finer things in life… even though his family had the money to show him such things if they wanted to spend it. But instead, his mother believed in buying clothing from the thrift store. Last Christmas I was shocked that she got me a gift (it is the thought that counts) but I just found it interesting to see that the “gift” was a red wool coat that she had bought from a thrift store a while back, knowing that at some point she’d give it away as a gift.

I don’t judge her for this at all, I’m just fascinated by the different financial mindsets of people in America. I wonder how much of it is based on culture and religion, and how much is unique to each family and person. Even I believe that the best part of making more money is being able to share that money… at least with the person you love and your close friends.

There’s plenty more I can write about all of this, but I need to get some more work done this evening before heading off to bed. Please leave comments about this topic, as I’m interested in hearing about your families and how that influenced the way you spend and save today.

Edited to add: My parents no longer send me money. I’m on my own. If I was in debt or something awful happens, I know they’d be there to help as much as possible. But now I’m earning money and paying all of my bills, including rent.

Question of the Day — From BankerGirl’s Blog

“If your boss told you that you’d just won two years paid vacation, what would you do with the time?”From the blog of BankerGirl.

Oh gosh! Two years paid vacation would certainly be a luxury. A lot would depend on what I’d be getting paid during those two years. Assuming it would be a full-time salary of $50k, I’d probably work another job (hopefully making the same amount) during that time and invest the first $50k more aggressively, probably focusing on trying to buy a house or a condo.

What would you do?

Found My Dream Job… But Why Must it Require 60 Hours Per Week?

My contract gig is going very well. In fact, it’s going better than expected. In the past two months, my 30-hour-a-week gig has already expanded from that of “writer” to that of marketing assistant and community manager. In a meeting with my boss yesterday, we briefly discussed the possibility of my staying on past the end of my contract in mid-Feb, and he seemed to want me to stick around. Great. Here’s the catch — to be considered “full time” I’d have to work about 60 hours per week.

Yes, that’s how life is out here in Silicon Valley. 60 hours a week is the norm for a full-time salaried position. Maybe I don’t need to be “full time.” I can be “part time” at 40 hours per week. Basically that just means that I’d be sans benefits and I’d get paid a bit less. And I might end up working 60 hours per week, but I won’t be required to do so.

I’m not sure that’s the end of the world. I’d rather have flexibility compared to having to be a slave (albeit a paid one) to a job (albeit a job I really like.) I want to have a life outside of work… even if that life is working other freelance gigs… I like the diversity of freelancing, so I think I’ll stick with that. Or maybe I should actually find myself a job that’s salaried at 40 hours per week.

But I tried that and I was miserable. I’ve been so happy lately, and it’s all because of my flexible schedule. I’m making a bit less money, but in time I can fix that. I’m marketing myself and getting new freelance writing gigs. An article here, a marketing newsletter there, and pretty soon I’m making $50k a year, all with time to keep enjoying my “hobby” of directing theater in the evenings and on weekends. I just don’t sleep.

I just wonder if I need to suck it up and take on a 60 hour per week job in order to advance in my career. I know that’s the norm here, and it seems like I’ve got one of those generation Y sense’s of self entitlement if I don’t just agree to that kind of life. But I’m worried if I do that I’ll quickly slip back into depression. And that I don’t want at all.

Lacking Charisma: Social Anxiety and Work

I’m bad at small talk and, despite my desire to be well-liked, I lack adequate amounts of charm and grace. Looking back on my job positions over the past five years, I see a disheartening trend: my failures are more or less due to my desire to limit human interaction as much as possible in any given period of time.

Silicon Valley is all about the small talk. The inside jokes, the laughter. I probably seem like I’m stuck up because I don’t know how to just chat. Either I feel like I’m talking too much, or I feel like I’m boring the person I’m talking to with questions.

I feel like I do well on my job interviews. I seem personable enough. Then it comes to the actual ‘work’ part of a job… and I just want to work and be done with it. Well, that’s not entirely true, I love collaboration… working in small teams… when my ideas seem to be worth something and I can help contribute to a final product. That’s when I like talking to other people. But otherwise… I just crawl back into my shell.

It really, really sucks. I just want to be that girl that’s always smiling who everyone likes. Maybe I’d annoy some people because I’m just so perky, but when they figured out that the perk was genuine they’d have to like me, at least a little bit, right?

But instead I have trouble making eye contact and forming sentences that seem to resemble phrases that might generate some sort of interest.

I don’t know if there is something ‘wrong’ with me or if I’ve turned myself into this anti-social monster. Sometimes I wonder if I have some kind of autism. I’ve never been good at socializing. When I was a kid, I’d only want to talk to adults, and that wasn’t because I liked talking to adults more, it’s just they’d forgive me for being awkward in exchange for accepting that I hadn’t reached puberty.

How much of growing up ‘the cootie girl’ influences ones ability to succeed down the road? There are so many voices in my head telling me that I’m a failure, and it’s hard to shove them all out and achieve some sort of clarity.

At my job, I go into the office, I basically run to my desk, and then I work all day, and then I go home. I’m too afraid to even say goodbye to people. I just appear and disappear. That’s no good for making employers want to keep you on as a worker. And don’t even get me started about why I should have never attempted to pursue a career in journalism with social anxiety…

Do you all think that charisma and charm are traits I can take on, or should I just try really hard to learn some super-specific geeky skill that pretty much requires me to be a recluse?

The Unfortunate Quest to be Anything Other than Average

Blaming Attention Deficit Disorder is easy, but the fact of the matter is that I have a serious problem with my inability to complete projects. Of course, I’m working hard to combat this problem and I’ve been doing a good job of it at my current contract gig.

But, even though I think I’m working hard, I still feel like my employer views me negatively. Maybe that’s my problem — as I always convince myself that people dislike me until proven otherwise. There are a few other projects on my plate that I’m behind on, or that are basically gone for good because, well, I took on more than I can chew. I don’t really know enough about interactive design yet to build multimedia sites, yet I tried once and it didn’t work. I’d like to take some classes in these things so it won’t take me hours browsing through tutorials to make a relatively simple site that has more than just graphics and text, but unfortunately, I don’t have time or the money to do that right now.

With my writing work… I feel like such a fake. I don’t think I’m a good writer. I think I’m a much better designer, without the technical skills to profit from my somewhat decent talent in that area. Meanwhile, writing is easy… to fake. Anyone can pretend to be a writer. But what matters is the content.

Maybe I just lost my love for writing. Once I wanted to be a journalist. But now all I do is dream about a day when I can design for a living. I feel like I get color and line and composition. What I don’t get is the composition of paragraphs or sentences.

I’m just tired of being a F&#& up. How did I get so far this fast and yet at every turn I run straight into a wall of my own creation? I’m over and done with it. I want to be successful, but my motivation levels… my non-temporary motivation levels… dwindle faster than George Bush’s ratings since going to war with Iraq.

Am I the only person who practices somewhat subconscious self sabotage? I’m so afraid of proving to myself that I’m actually a failure that all I can do is fail before I have the chance to do it unintentionally.

I need to stop feeling like I need to do something GREAT in order to succeed. I know it’s the little things that are meaningful, yet I don’t believe it. I want to be famous, or brilliant, or… anything other than average.