Tag Archives: job

It’s Been a While, Time for an Update

I was just interviewed for an article about personal finance sites, and the brief early-morning chat reminded me that I haven’t updated this blog in a while. I’d like to start writing regularly again, it’s just tough to keep up with my blogs and my life. I don’t know how some personal finance bloggers find the time to write, like, three posts a day.

That said, I know I left you all with that wonderful long health insurance rant cliffhanger. Cue the cheesy suspense music please… “Duhn, duhn, duhn”….

There’s good news, and there’s bad news. I still don’t have health insurance. The good news is that’s mostly because I’m lazy and less because I’ve been denied. Well, I haven’t been denied because I haven’t applied yet. I’ve been speaking with a health insurance agent who seems to think my best option is to lie on my applications, although he won’t go on record as advising that. Meanwhile he’s also helped me put together a quote for Pacific Healthcare where I don’t have to lie, and that seems pretty reasonable (something like $140 a month for catastrophic insurance).

COBRA turns out to be a whopping $405 a month, so unless it turns out I actually get denied from every other option, it’s looking like COBRA, an aptly named snake, is a type of insurance one ought to stay away from even though it’s enticing from afar.

Money matters are looking up. I’m actually getting more work than I know what to do with right now. And old colleague who is the editor of a journalism-y startup just asked me to work a few hours for her a week helping with admin stuff, doing site maintenance and at some point writing some short and fun features for the site. I have a feeling she’s going to try to encourage me to get back into writing longer-format features and news stories at some point, but I’m not sure that’s the direction I want to head in. I’m kind of happy with the freedom (and better pay) that comes with controlling my career as a freelance writer out in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, my journalism expertise is in technology writing, and if I’m going to work for any startup in the area, it’s too conflict-of-interesty to try to swing a career half-time in journalism and half-time in writing marketing copy for these sites. This gig for my old colleague is kosher because it’s covering a specific area of technology that I will not be doing writing work for. So, that seems alright.

My biggest concern at the moment is the upcoming tax season. I just hope I get my W2 and 109 forms my way early so I can start figuring out how many zillions of dollars I owe, or don’t owe. I honestly have no idea what taxes will look like this year, and it scares me a bit. See, from Jan-June of 07 I was making “35k a year” and having taxes taken out of that. Then From June 15-Nov 15, I was making “50k a year” and taxes were swiped from my bi-monthly checks. That’s good. But after that, my tax situation turns into a bit of a mess. I’ve done a bunch of freelancing here and there. Some of it was for $50, some for $600, some for $1000. Obviously I’ll report all of the larger gigs, and try my best to remember the tally of my smaller gigs. Smart me, I haven’t been keeping track of my checks as I cashed them at the bank because I just assumed I’d have access to the scan of them later. I could have sworn at one point I saw these scans on my BankofAmerica.com account. No such luck. Apparently they charge some fee to pull up the scans of old checks. I don’t really want to find out how much that fee is. I guess I’ll just wait for my tax mail to come, and take it from there. And hopefully, at least for this year, it will turn out that my average pay was so low (due to periods of unemployment, without being on unemployment) that I’ll somehow break even on the whole tax situation. If not, there’s a chance I could owe a lot.

This is also the first year I’m going to see what having some cash in a mutual fund does to my taxes. Apparently I have to pay tax on my dividends. But right now it looks like my mutual fund, despite being ‘in the bank’ for over seven months, has returned to its original buying price. So I’m not sure how that all works out come tax time. Can someone explain this to me?

the nightmare that is figuring out taxes and health insurance as a freelancer

the absolutely marvelous news is that i just landed a steady, well-paid, 30 hrs/week contract gig for the next three months.

the bad news it that now i have to figure out how on earth to get myself decent health insurance… and how to sort out my income and expenses for tax season.

contract work is great because of the flexibility, but all the additional “work” I have to do to be self-employed is rather terrifying.

first off — health insurance: i already know i will be denied if i tell the truth on my health insurance applications, because i took lexapro ONE MONTH for “major depression.” On the Tonik health insurance application, you get to click off your pre-existing medical conditions. Guess what category major depression falls into? “Bipolar disorder/Major Depression/Schizophrenia”

Um. I went to a psychiatrist for about two months, took meds for one month, and i kind of feel better now.

My psychiatrist kind of warned me about the potential health insurance issues, but she wasn’t very clear about it. She just said that she doesn’t like working with health insurance — because it takes her forever to get paid. And then when she was considering diagnosing me with bipolar, she asked me if it would be ok to note that on my diagnosis form, since most clients don’t want that on there, as it could hurt their chances of getting health insurance later on.

First off, I was rather ignorant at the time, thinking that health insurance existed to help you get better (wrong) and that it would be cheaper for me to use my $15 co-pay visits with a ‘major depression’ diagnosis as opposed to 50% pay for ADD or anxiety or anything else that I probably actually have (I doubt I have major depression. It’s probably recurring, but I go through phases in my life. Life is hard and sometimes i’m sad and sometimes I need someone to talk to, but I don’t think this is a life-long condition). Anyway…

So I got my $15 visits, which was nice for the two months I say my psychiatrist and my therapist. And now? Well, chances are I won’t be able to get health insurance. Because apparently whatever it is I have is just as bad as SCHIZOPHRENIA in the eyes of my potential insurers.

I spoke with a health insurance agent who, off the record, basically suggested that i take the risk and lie on my application, because that would be the only way i could get decent insurance. but, of course, then i could basically screw myself over by doing that, since health insurance companies could find out that i lied and make me pay for EVERYTHING since when i signed up for their insurance. that’s a scary thought.

Or – do I just be honest and watch as my applications get denied? I haven’t got my forms for Cobra yet, but I’m sure that will be ridiculously expensive. I had really good health insurance (Blue Shield PPO) through my employer with a $250 deductible, and now I’m looking at whatever I can get with a $1500-$5000 deductible and poor benefits. And to get that I might still have to lie.

But I should have health insurance. I realize it’s stupid to be living without health insurance. I just am not sure what kind to get. Basically I need the doctor to prescribe me Yasmin birth control pills each month (and hopefully for them not to cost me a fortune) — I need “Yasmin” specifically for hormonal imbalances and such, but unfortunately getting cheaper pills through something like planned parenthood will not let me get that brand.

Besides health insurance, there’s the issue of taxes. Gosh, I’m so behind of keeping tabs on what I’ve made in contract work this year. I know, bad me. I just set up a google docs spreadsheet to start taking detailed notes from hereonout, but I’m not 100% sure what I’ve made thus far this year. In any case, I know that taxes are going to take a HUGE CHUNK out of my income, which is fine, they did that before, but it’s just really hard to determine how much taxes will be when I don’t even know how much work I will have each month.

At least now I have a stable three month gig where I will be making $3300 a month, assuming they like me and want to keep me for the entirety of the contracted position. After that, either I get to stay on board, or it’s back to the drawing board. We’ll see. Meanwhile, my goal is to pick up one or two freelance web design projects per month, where I’d make anywhere from $500-$1000 per project (although I’m starting out with really cheap rates of like $200 per project.)

Anyway… for the next three months, my ‘income’ before taxes, minus any additional web design projects, should be $3700, which includes the contract gig and another ongoing contract project where I make $400 a month writing a few articles for my uncle’s marketing firm. $3700 a month is definitely not a bad wage, but after taxes, and health insurance, I’m not sure how much that actually is. It’d be something like $2700 a month or something? So after rent, that’s $1650 a month. Phone bill, gym membership and cable tv/internet are like, $200, so then I have $1450 left. Ok, not bad. Health insurance, assuming I go for a decent kind, will be like $300 a month. So that’s maybe $1150 left for food, entertainment and such.

Ok, I guess that’s not awful. But I just am scared about not understanding taxes and all the complicated stuff that goes into expensing things and such. Meanwhile, I just read that self-employed individuals pay a lot more in taxes because usually the company pays for like half of the taxes, but when you work for yourself you are your own company.

So. I guess I have a lot of figuring out to do. In the meantime, I have to wrap up three projects I’m working on. I’m writing some company for a startup (basically, I’m writing all the copy that will go on their site), then I have to finish this one website for a client, and then I’ve got to wrap up the basic design for a project I’m doing in a ‘trade’ deal with a personal trainer. 5 hours of web design for 4 hours of personal training. It’s not a bad deal, considering she charges $78 an hour and I charge $50. Anyway, I can tell she’s getting antsy to see the page (I already had three training sessions this week, but I told her I’d show her something this weekend.) Well, I’ve got to finish that. I’m trying my darndest to figure out Flash because A) she seems to really like pages with Flash in them and B) I need at least one site for my portfolio that incorporates Flash, so I can show clients that I can atleast put some basic animation on their pages.

Anyway.

Life is going pretty good, minus all of this confusion. My birthday is coming up next week. I’m turning 24. Happy, uh, confused birthday to me.

I Need a Job.

Welcome to the world of unemployment. It’s not that bad of a world, minus the whole losing money every second of the day sort of thing.

The good news is that while I’m officially unemployed (sans unemployment insurance, since I resigned), I’ve picked up a few random freelance gigs here and there. My uncle always needs random work done for his e-marketing firm, and he seems really happy with the work I’ve done for him thus far, which makes me feel really good. Yea, he’s my uncle, but he’s also a really talented marketing entrepreneur and I know he wouldn’t be hiring me for more jobs if he felt like I didn’t have the chops.

I have a steady income (1/3rd my rent) each month from ongoing writing assignments from him, with occasional extra work for the firm. This month, in addition to my normal copywriting, I did my first official web page design assignment for him. I guess he liked how the design looked but wasn’t thrilled that I turned a pure HTML document into one with CSS. Oops. I was so confused by the original HTML document, given that it was causing Dreamweaver to have a hernia or something. Half the code turned GREY and I couldn’t edit it. Now, maybe that was a template that I was supposed to work in, but there was still some weird code that was making the layout all wonky. I kept the layout exactly the same, except I revamped it in CSS. Hopefully that’s not too awful. He wasn’t exactly clear on the directions, I was just told to take a pre-existing site and make it look better, and that I did. Oh well.

I’m also writing a bunch of copy for a start-up social networking-esque company. It’s all contract work, but who knows, it could lead to something more. So this week is booked solid with contract work. Next week, my sister comes to visit and I’m “taking the week off” to show her around town. Then I’m going to start focusing on my job applications. Well, I’ve been applying for jobs left and right, but am not sure anyone is going to consider hiring me full time since I was only at my last job for 4 months. That looks really bad in the eyes of a potential employer, and I can’t blame them for doubting me. It’s just frustrating because I know I have so much to give, it’s just my last job wasn’t right for me. I’m not a newshound. I’m somewhat socially anxious, which doesn’t really align with a career in journalism. But how do I explain that to potential employers? “I quit my last job because talking to strangers makes my heart explode.” Yea, that’s going to help me land a great job, for sure. 🙁

In any case, I’m hopeful that something good will come along if i’m patient and bide my time with contract work. If I can manage to turn the contract work into a full-time profession, all the better. But for now, I’m crossing my fingers that I can manage to pay for my rent, basic bills, health insurance cobra, and food until something full-time comes along.

Meanwhile, i’ve decided to focus my free time on getting into shape and figuring out how to be healthy inside and out. I’ve stopped taking the anti-depressents (wow, I took them for a whole 25 days, and now, I’m done) and am looking into herbal stuff instead. (Yup, I bought some St. John’s Wort.) I can’t figure out if all of the nutritional supplements end up costing me more than a psychiatrist and Lexapro, or if they end up costing about the same. In any case, I figured out that my lack of energy and dizziness is probably caused by iron and other nutritional deficiences. This week, I even tried eating red meat (I’ve been a vegetarian for about 10 years, though I started eating fish a year ago) – but after downing a half-pound hamburger yesterday I got sick to my stomach. Let’s just say an hour or so after eating that burger, I only digested about half of it. The rest? Don’t ask. (Yuck.) So I’m done with red meat (again) for now. Instead, I’m looking into other supplements to help the cause of mission get healthy (without – getting broke.) Think I can do it? Well, I certainly hope so.

Over and Done and on to the Next

I apologize for taking forever to update this blog. Life has been a wee bit crazy as of late, but despite all of the chaos I think in the long run all that has gone down will be for the better. In short, at the moment I am unemployed. Basically, I quit my job, although of course it wasn’t nearly that simple. In the brief hour or so I had to decide between forced resignation and firing, I chose the former. I’m still not sure if that was the right decision given that I cut myself off from unemployment benefits, but given that the parting was amicable, it seemed in my best interest to keep things that way and not have to force my boss to fire me.

Anyway, it seems like I’m back to square one. Funny that. I spent a year and three months building up my career and I really had gotten far. Too far, to be honest. I just jumped way ahead of my capabilities at this point in my career and experience. My boss even commented in our closing conversation that I’m really good at what I do, I just need more time to nurture my skills in a more stable journalism environment, preferably at a magazine. I’m not really such such a job exists these days, nor am I sure I’d want it if miracle of miracles it was offered to me. Right now I’m going through a massive re-evaluation of my career plans and goals. I’m really interested in pursuing web design and copy writing, but I’m not sure what kind of openings there would be in those areas for someone with my particular background.

For the time being, I’m doing some freelance web and writing work, and I’m going to take a trip to the local temp agency to try to land some short-term gigs until I figure this all out. I’m a wee bit nervous about the whole health insurance situation — I’m insured until the end of the month on my current policy and then it’s either dealing with expensive Cobra coverage or trying to figure out if the alternatives are any cheaper. The whole situation isn’t very good given that I’m finally on medication to treat my depression and, well, I might not be able to obtain insurance that will help pay for the condition. Ugh. It’s fine, though, I’ve been through worse times before. To be honest, I kind of feel relieved right now. I know that I did my best and it just wasn’t the right job for me at this time. Being unemployed sucks, but hopefully I won’t be job-less for long.

Facing Eviction from Reality

(aka, pretty soon i’m likely getting the ax at work.)

I prefer not to be a “failure,” but this time around I’m not sure I can do anything to avoid such an outcome. My job and I are like oil and vinegar, and I’m certainly the oil, sinking to the bottom.

Instead of allowing myself to get depressed over this situation, I’m doing my best to see it as an opportunity to switch directions and get myself on track for the life I ought to be leading. I know I should have went to art school and studied for a career in design, but when I did that whole “college thing” I had no comprehension of what it would be like to work 40+ hours a week doing just one job. After all, in college you study all these different subjects and every hour of every day is vastly varied. Then you get to the real world and time tends to blur.

But I’d like to think I can somehow land in a design field even if I kind of messed up the whole schooling part of the plan. I’ve bought a few design and coding books, but really I know I should take a class (or twenty) to get me on track. I don’t do well with books, or any sort of reading for that matter. I learn by doing – that’s how I taught myself HTML when I was 13 and golly gee, I haven’t changed since.

While there are a whole lot of things I really suck at, I know I’m good at understanding what looks good. And that’s a valuable skill, isn’t it? Computers complicate matters because you can want something to look one way, and not be able to achieve that vision (f’n cross browser compatibility)…

Anyway, life is as it is. I’ve got a little less than two weeks to prove to the powers that be that I can do this job justice. I’m going to give it my all, but something is telling me this just wasn’t meant to be.

Here’s reality — in less than two weeks, I’ll be out of a job. Unemployed again after a solid year and three months of remaining in the work force. That’s pretty, uh, pathetic. The worst part is that I’ve only been at this job for about two months now, and my short stint is going to look awful to any potential employers. School is an option, I guess, but the whole process of applying and figuring out just how much debt I’ll have to accrue in order to pursue more education – almost – makes me want to get a job at Starbucks.

It’s tough, because I really thought I had found the perfect gig – I had all the responsibility in the world, great pay, great flexibility, and – I blew it. I blew it because my learning disabilities and such have got in the way. Or maybe it’s just me and my lack of ability to focus for long periods of time, unless I’m trying to make something look good. Either way, I’ve tried a lot of different things and have yet to find what suits me. I’m “only” 23, so I guess I shouldn’t feel that bad about it. I just know how fast time flies, and I really don’t want to get to the point where I’m saying I’m “only 34” or something, and still in the same place. Age looses validity as an excuse once on hits about 25. And that’s when the real depression starts to sink in. Oh boy. Can’t wait.

Fears of Debt Drown Potential Prosperity

These days, it seems like everyone has tens of thousands of dollars in college debt. Not me. I was one of the lucky ones. Yup, mom and dad foot the bill for my entire college tuition. Given, at the time, I didn’t understand the true value of a college tuition because I didn’t have any sort of grasp on what money is worth.

Today, I’m proudly making it on my own. But my talents are not lining up with my current career, and my boss is starting to notice. I’m trying really hard because I want to do a good job, but I guess there are just some things that come natural to certain people that, well, don’t come naturally to me.

I’ve spent my whole post-adolescent life running away from the thought of a career in design or the arts because that was what my parents expected me to do. Now I’m landing a few weekend freelance design jobs here and there and realizing that this design thing is a rather profitable endeavor. Right now I can fake it – ie, futz with CSS and Photoshop and make a site look purty, but I know I’m not designing within the bounds of modern coding standards. Trying to understand Illustrator is almost as difficult as reading Greek. I can’t do either.

What I’d love more than anything is the opportunity to spend a year or two focused on learning the art and craft of web design. I’m not so sure that’s do-able. First off, the amount of masters and certificate programs available for education in web design and back-end coding make my head spin. They’re all pricy, though pricy has a different definition in each program. Regardless of the program I chose, if I chose one, they’ll all put me into debt. And I know education debt is supposedly good debt, but I am so terrified of having negative money that I can’t really consider doing what my heart knows I ought to do.

Meanwhile, I’m slowly but surely driving my co-workers nutso at my current job. Not sure how to solve that problem since unfortunately succeeding at this job requires certain abilities I do not have. So I’m rather confused regarding what to do at this point. Deadlines for graduate school are rolling in, and I can’t figure out if they’re worth it. I do know that when it comes to web design ultimately what matters is a portfolio and skill – and that can all be created and learned without an expensive education. What to do, what to do?

Successful Shoe Return; Job Stress; Understanding Economics

Please pat me on the back. I walked into Macy’s to return my non-functioning shoes that I purchased for $45 last month (the heel of the right shoe somehow deflated each time I put any weight on it) and by some miracle of miracle’s I managed to walk out of the store, return receipt in hand, without making another purchase.

(Although I admit, I did eye the earring display by the door and have dirty thoughts about buying half of the items shimmering in my view).

Now, before you get too pat-happy, prepare to punch me. Five minutes or so after my accomplishment, I walked into Borders and spent $36 on two books. I felt like the books were worthy purchases though. Sure, I could go to a library to get books for free, but on the rare occasion I manage to motivate myself to read anything, I’m the type that loves to take notes in the columns. The librarians don’t really think my notes add value to the books, so it’s best for me to purchase them up front.

My goal over the next few months is to actually start reading. I have terrible ADD and I rarely pick up a book and make it through from start to finish. I’ve given up on fiction almost entirely, but non-fiction is worth my time and painful attempts to focus.

Since I’m on this personal finance kick and slightly depressed/confused/bewildered about how Wall Street works, I decided to invest in some economics for dummies-type books.

So I bought:

1) Economics: Making Sense of the Modern Economy (by “The Economist”)
2) Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery, by David Warsh

I like buying “smart people” books. My shelves are filled with them. Do I read them? No. But I do need to figure out this economy thing. It’s one subject that I’m embarrassed I know next-to-nothing about. As a business reporter, I owe my readers (and myself) a bit of a fast education on the topic.

Speaking of my profession, I won’t go into detail (since I want to remain anonymous), but I’m a bit stressed out about my new job. The job is awesome for so many reasons – flexibility, salary, the people I get to work with and meet, and above all, the ability to learn something (or a bunch of things) new every day. How could I ask for more? I know I’m so lucky to have landed in such a great position given my age, my experience, and perhaps even my potential.

Well, that’s the problem. I really want to do a good job, but it’s not like I can just complete all my projects early, take on additional projects, and seem like a great worker. Ultimately my success is dependent more on quality than quantity of my output, though quantity is important as well.

The sad thing is that even when I try to be careful with my reporting, I have a tendency to make little mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes once in a while, but I seem to do it all the time. I’m looking into going to see a psychiatrist because I’m thinking perhaps if I get on some drugs for my ADD I’ll be less likely to miss my errors. But all that mental health care costs a fortune, even if my insurance covers some of it. Then again, if it’ll help me keep my job, it’s worth it, right?

In any case, I’m confused about the whole career situation. More than anything I’m frustrated with myself for not kicking ass at my job. I don’t want to let my anxiety hold me back from success. Then there’s also the question of whether I’m smart enough to be in a position that obviously requires a high level of intellect and ability to collect, analyze and re-hash complicated information.

My boss recently criticized me for my lack of voice in my work. He said he hired me because I told him that I’m a blogger. But my writing for work has been so boring and dry. It’s lacking any sort of personality, I guess. I wonder what he’d think of this blog or any of the other blogs that I keep that are chalk full of personality. It’s a lot easier to have a voice when I’m writing about things I’m intimately familiar with, but the topics I write about are not things that are easy to understand or to explain. Maybe someday I’ll get to the point where I can write short, edgy posts with tons of voice that people would actually want to read. Until that day, I better get “good enough” so I can keep my job… and keep improving.

Women Don’t Negotiate = Women Make Less Money.

I got a new job. I can’t go into details on here regarding what that job entails, as I don’t want to blow my thinly-veiled cover (to those who know me, it’s impossible for me to blog without giving away who I am.) Needless to say, the position is 99 percent of the way to dream job, and I’m really proud of myself for somehow falling into the opportunity.

The focus of this entry is not my new job, persay, but my terror of negotiating and my delight in figuring out that I can get what I want in a negotiation without feeling guilty.

The day of my meeting to negotiate terms of my new job, I spent all my free time scouring the Internet for advice on how to approach any likely scenerio. I took my current job with absolutely no negotiation, and while I don’t regret it (the job was worth more to me than a few thousand more dollars at the time, when my lack of full-time experience made it painfully difficult to get a job at all), it does suck being stuck at my entry-level salary a year later. Between the company struggling financially and my inability to be brilliant in their eyes, I lost the opportunity to be promoted five months into the gig. And since then, I haven’t even dared to ask. I’ve been working my ass off and I’m pretty sure I’ve been earning my keep, to say the least. It has just become increasingly clear to me that in order to be valued as I ought to be, I need to move elsewhere.

So I applied for dozens of positions and even got offers for a few, but ultimately turned them down. They all paid more than my current gig, but I decided while I’d like a fatter paycheck, salary isn’t the only thing that would get me to make the leap to a new position. I’m picky. And I really wanted to find a job where I knew I would feel like I’d be able to give just as much as I take, if not more.

Found that job, or so it seems. I had no idea what the salary would be. It’s one of those Web 2.0 jobs where there’s no pre-defined standard for base salary at any level. It’s a guessing game for all involved, to be determined based on either my former salary or my current and potential value.

The one strict rule in negotating, it seems, is that you’re not supposed to note your current salary at any point. Nor should you bring up a number first. In my situation, I was practically forced to put a number out there. I blurted out a range, which was higher than what I’m making now but not entirely ridiculous. The low point in the range was what I figured I should be making at my current job if I was in a company that actually paid attention to the growth of its employees and wanted to reward them for their hard work. The high of the range, $5k more, was what I’d like to be making, even though I didn’t think that was really possible.

Side story…

The other day I met up with a young woman who used to intern with me at a community newspaper. She graduated a year after me (I was interning the year after I graduated, while she was graduating that year with a degree in journalism.) Turns out, she hated the internship (and seemingly journalism as a whole, but maybe it was just the internship.) So the other day we re-connected on Linked In and it turned out she was working in a PR office a few towns over. So we decided to meet up for lunch.

We talked a lot about issues of age, salary, and feeling like being taken advantage of at work (mostly due to our age.) Turns out that her salary, surprisingly enough, was $3k less than what I’m currently making. She was frustrated with her job, mostly because of the pay – I’d imagine mind numbing PR work without a rewarding salary would get old fast. We’ve both been in our positions a year now, even though I’m officially two years out of school and she’s just marking her one year anniversary of graduation.

She took such a low salary without negotiating at first because she needed the experience as well, but likely she could have gotten her base pay up to that $35k figure that seems to be standard for entry-level corporate or agency work (unless you’re a software engineer or something). Now she’s stuck. She could ask for a raise, but the raise would bring her up to what she should have started at a year ago.

Back to the main story…

Negotiation is an amazing tool when used properly. It’s amazing what you can get just by asking. Women are taught to make other’s happy, to be people pleasers (at least most of us are) so negotiation seems like a painful experience. Aren’t they offering me what’s in my best interest? Not likely. It turns out that men often think of their own interests first, whereas women are the opposite. So a man will low-ball a salary and expect the other person to negotiate. If the other person is a man, chances are he would negotiate for a higher salary or at least better benefits. If the other person is a women, it’s questionable if she’ll say “Ok” or go with the great tactic… “hmmmmm…”

But I’m living proof that it can’t hurt to ask. At the start of the negotation process, I was given a salary quote, which was the lowest number I had noted in my range at my first interview. While I could have taken that and been happy with it, I felt like that was a little low considering my additional commute time for this new job and all the added responsibility. I was thinking of asking for $2k more, but I realized if I did that, then he might pick a number in between the two, and I’d end up with only $1k more. So instead I mustered up all my courage and pushed the number up $5k. It was quite a nervewracking moment. I was waiting for him to say no. He almost said no. Then he said, “done.”

Moral of the story – female or male, but especially female, make sure to ask for what you want when you’re negotiating. It might make sense to accept what’s offered to you for your first job out of college, but even then most people respect a little negotiation initative. Afterall, business – whether it’s working for a giant corporate company as a sales rep, or as a development associate at a non-profit, is ALL about negotation. And if you can’t ask for what you want when it comes to your livelihood, what’s to say you would be able to do it on a daily basis to help your company get ahead?

Building Up a Freelance Career

There are tons of opportunities to make a few bucks here and there when it comes to writing. This blog, despite all of those AdSense ads, is not one of them. I seem to be making about three cents a week with AdSense, and that’s on a good week.

However, with all of the magazines in the world, online and in print, there’s plenty of room to pitch stories and freelance for some extra cash each month. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of working as a freelancer, but I’m not sure I’d be comfortable moving to a full-time freelance career. First of all, every month would bring in a different amount of money. Health insurance would be all up to me to figure out. I might ultimately make more money, but the uncertainty freaks me out too much to take that leap.

In the meantime, I’ve been lucky enough to be doing some minimal freelance writing work for my uncle, who runs his own online marketing company. He develops e-newsletters for a company that are sent out each month. Included in those newsletters are summaries of related news articles. Guess who writes those summaries? I make $50 per month doing that, but that $50 covers one voice lesson. It actually used to be $100 a month but one of the companies he developed the newsletter for decided they were done with their monthly marketing e-mail. The extra $100 a month was really nice. It seemed to provide the extra cushion I need between overspending and just having enough money to break even each month. The job is nice because writing up the blurbs comes naturally to me and I feel like I’m actually helping my uncle out while also making his life a little easier.

I’ve done occasional freelance work for newspapers, but it’s a ton of work for $50. My cell phone bill for making all the calls ends up costing more than what I make. So I’ve put a stop to newspaper freelancing for now.

Lately I’ve realized that the real money to be made in freelancing is writing for PR and marketing. I don’t think I’d want a full-time PR or marketing career, but I do enjoy spending my free time writing marketing copy. It’s nice to spend my days reporting and writing hard news, and then getting a bit fluffy come evening. Of course, I have to be very careful not to run into any conflict-of-interest issues, which is always a very real concern for me as a journalist. I’d only write marketing copy for a company outside of the sectors my magazine covers.

On top of writing, I’m also trying to build up my freelance web design work. It’s amazing how much money one can make designing a simple site for a person or a business. My uncle hooked me up with my first gigs, where he pitched me as a cheap alternative to other web designers. I guess most web designers charge about $1500-$2000 for a simple site. I’ve charged about $600-$700 per site. I feel really weird charging people that much money, even though I realize my prices are more than competitive. I’ve also worked for small companies or people who have a large chunk of disposible income, so my uncle tells me not to feel guilty about setting my prices in that range. He said he’d charge $2500 or more to do the exact same thing.

Knowing that, sometimes I wonder if I should really focus on gaining skills in web design. After all, it would be neat to either work full-time as a web designer or, ideally, to supplement my income as a reporter by designing about two sites per month. The extra $1200 per month, or even $600 per month, would really help balance out my budget.

As far as career goes, I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing in a month. My company, as I’ve noted previously, looks as if it’s about to go down the tubes. But I’m not too concerned. Some exciting opportunities have popped up. It’s kind of nice how things seem to always work out. A networking contact of the past has contacted me about an opening at her company. It’s not everyday someone contacts me about a job opening.

I definitely have tons more to say about job searching as both an entry-level candidate and now as a candidate with rather specialized experience. But that’ll be another entry.

Do any of you freelance full-time or for supplemental income outside of your job? Any advice for a gal who’s interested in building out her freelance work?

Ivy Envy

Two years ago, when I was just a wee soon-to-be college grad, I hadn’t a clue what “job stability” meant. I was all wide-eyed and bushy tailed, expecting my B.F.A. to ensure everything in life would work itself out, given a short bit of things smoothing themselves out.

I really had no idea what I was in for. I’m lucky, I have a savings, I know my parents are there for me if I’m desperate (although with the amount of savings I have and my history with the ‘rents, I’d rather run myself into serious debt than beg them for help.)

So after a year of interning for a slave’s wage, I found myself a full time job in the editorial department of fairly small magazine startup. I’ve been there for about a year. It’s been a great ride, that’s for sure, and I’m learning tons. What I’m not getting, however, is a promotion in title or salary, despite that I’m a fairly dedicated worker and I’ve put a lot of hard work into the job.

Besides all that, it looks as though the company is slowly but surely falling to pieces. It could always surprise me and make a fortune, but there’s been an increased dosage of pessimism that leaves me thinking I’m likely going to be out of job in a month or two, or maybe three at most.

Meanwhile, my apartment complex raised my rent to $1050 from $905 (utilities included) for my comfy studio apartment. Gosh, I can’t believe I’m paying $1050 for a studio, but that’s the cost of living in the Bay Area. I know, I know, I should live with other people because at $35k a year, I can’t really afford to live alone.

But the thing is, I’ve been depressed my whole life until I finally got my own place, and suddenly my brain and emotions have stabilized. Living on my own, I figure, includes the cost of therapy I no longer need (or at least no longer desperately need).

Still, expenses are tight, as I’m spending about $200 more than what I earn per month. It’s do-able with my savings, but obviously I can’t live that way forever. I kind of figure that eventually I’ll be making more money (hopefully sooner than later) and if I can manage to make at least $45k a year I’ll be set.

I mean, I’m a spender. I buy things. But I also rarely buy big ticket items. I’m the type that goes into the drug store for shampoo and leaves having spent $78. I did that today. I love little things. Sometimes I need them, sometimes I don’t. I’d never spend more than $70 on a shirt, and I usually try to find clothes at sale retailers like Marshalls or Nordstrom Rack. I’m rather stingy, for the most part. Or so I think. It’s just all the little costs add up. And then I’m left looking at bright red numbers with a minus sign in front of them on my budget reports in Quicken.

Sometimes I feel like I’m hopeless. When I lose this job, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I’ve considered graduate school but the thought of taking the savings I have and spending it all on more schooling, plus going into debt over it, makes me want to puke. I mean, I’d be going to grad school for journalism, and the reality is that the salary I’d make at a job post graduate studies is equal or lower to what I’m making now. That’s just how the field works.

Meanwhile, my job prospects at the moment are pretty dim. They’re definitely not as bad as they were last year, when I was a college grad with a degree in the arts and basically no experience minus a few internships. I’m way ahead of that in terms of experience now, but still, I feel like the only jobs outside of journalism I can get are in PR. And not that there is anything wrong with PR, it’s a perfectly practical and admirable profession, it’s just not something I can see myself getting passionate about.

There are SO many things I want to do with my life, and I’m trying hard to do each and every one of them, but some things I just, well, I need more training to do, and I’m not sure how feasible that is. For instance, I’d love to learn how to code web applications, to work for a local startup as a project manager, to somehow magically obtain some serious computer science skills and build out a career from there. Of course it’s a bit late for that. I know HTML and some CSS and that’s about it.

Well, long story short, when I’m out of a job in a few months, I really don’t know what’s next. I’m looking for another position now, mostly because I don’t want to be left out cold. But I also want to take the next step in my career, as it doesn’t seem possible at my current company. I just have no idea where I ought to step, and meanwhile I’m just frustrated with myself for failing to be good enough for my company. It’s tough, I’m not an Ivy League grad, and for good reason. I’m smart, but I’m not book smart. I’m not as smart as 99 percent of the people who work at my company. And I try, believe me I try, but it’s hard to know that my brain perhaps doesn’t have the ability to keep up with my co-workers.

But that’s just what it’s like in Silicon Valley. Everyone here is smart. Everyone here seems to have graduated from Berkeley or Stanford. Well, I didn’t. I’ve got Ivy Envy, and for good reason. Tons of the interesting entry- or junior-level job ads on craigslist note that they’d prefer (or require) the applicant to have a degree from a “top university.” Thus, I’m out of the running.

Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between someone like me and a graduate of one of those top schools. Obviously they’re able to focus better and be more efficient with their time. Are they really all smarter than me? What is intelligence anyway? And can I be successful despite having a terrible case of ADD and perhaps not having an IQ that would allow me to so much as get an interview for a job at, say, Google?