If I could tell you one thing, it would be to never stop making mix CDs.
Don’t worry about chemistry homework. It’s true what you’ve been telling yourself - you will actually never use this again in your life. Instead, keep searching out the things you love. The things you could never not do. The things that make you want to get up in the morning. Appreciate that those things are songs. That those things are free. That those things are easy.
Take yourself seriously. You’re fucking around, but you’re doing it better than anyone else is. So don’t undermine your own authority. Believe that you are an expert. Believe that you’ve done it the best. Believe that if you keep trying, you’ll do it better.
Always keep doing the things that you’ll do when no one asks you to. Keep pushing towards the goals that you don’t have to set for yourself because you know you just want to wake up and do the same damn thing tomorrow. Don’t worry too much about how much time you’re spending on the internet. This is just the beginning.
Trust yourself enough to do the thing you love.
And when I say “us” I mean “me” as in myself and “you” as the whole postgraduate universe. Me and my job. Me and my boyfriend. Me and my student loan debt. Me and my best friends who used to be my housemates and are now usually just names next to green dots on my Facebook chat list.
I’m trying to fit in with the real world. With the people who pay their bills on time and budget for retirement. Who probably don’t pretend that a nice bottle of wine is an “investment beverage” in their own wellbeing (and if they do, they probably have the money to indulge responsibly).
World, I am trying to see where I belong in you. I won’t say I’m finding myself or figuring it out because who doesn’t kind of loathe people who say that? Instead I’ll say that I’m actively searching searching searching for the things that makes my heart beat fast and keeps my wallet full. I am wondering how long it will take me to find it.
I know where I am. I am already found. I am here. I am now. I am constantly moving. I know who I am. I am already found. I am trying. I am here. I am good.
My use of exclamation points in emails is something I’ve thought too much about for a while now. What I’ve thought about, specifically, is that if I don’t use them enough people will think I’m being mean or dull or, mostly, they’ll think I’m a bitch.
I’m worried because I’m a lady. Better yet, because I’m a lady doing business. And the stereotypical lady is supposed to be perky, happy and cute, while the stereotypical businessman (emphasis on the man) is serious, straightforward and no frills.
I fall somewhere in the middle of the two, but if I had it my way my emails and other digital conversation would be very limited in their exclamation point use. When working with nonprofits, I tended to see fewer exclamation points from both males and females alike. Now that I’m more on the product side of the spectrum, everybody is so excited! about whatever it is! they’re doing! And I can’t help but feel like I have to litter my emails with exclamation points right back at ‘em.
So obviously some of this is code switching - adopting your mannerisms to mirror that of the group your in. But I think another big part of it is gender, and the pressure to keep things light and airy because I’m a woman, even when I’m trying to come down hard on someone for missing a deadline or offer stern but constructive criticism.
Curbing my exclamation point use is something I’d like to work on this year. Fake enthusiasm for the sake of being ladylike isn’t really all that productive; actually, it can be kind of draining at the end of the day.
And, besides, we all know the one sacred Fey/Poehler truth that rings true for businessladies (and men) everywhere:
I went to Ecuador to be with a boy who was in Brazil so we could end up in Chicago together.
I took a job because I needed it, not because I wanted it.
I wanted to move to Chicago to be with the person I love. But also because I didn’t want to go home yet. I didn’t want to be the person who moves back to the place she grew up before taking a shot at fully existing anywhere else.
I didn’t really need the job.
I knew I wouldn’t like it when I signed the contract. I knew I wouldn’t like it when I boarded the plane. I knew I wouldn’t like it when I met all of the wonderful people I worked with. I knew I wouldn’t like it even though they were wonderful to me.
I learned what it means to do something you love by doing something that I just couldn’t bring myself to like.
I broke up with him on Friday because I was worried I couldn’t find a way to be with him. I got offered a job that would take me anywhere I wanted to go on Sunday.
I learned what it means to be great at something because people who are great at something love what they do.
This is why we love successful entrepreneurs. Employees who’ve worked at the some company for more than 20 years. Family diners. Because how special is it that someone loved something so much that they put enough heart in it to make it great?
It’s not just the money, it’s the happiness.
I learned that being in the cross of a blessed coincidence is not the same feeling as rightness in your gut. That even if you feel you’ve been given an extraordinary gift, you shouldn’t always accept it.
To be honest, the money wasn’t even that good.
I learned that I am really really bad at some things. And that I’m not good at faking it.
I haven’t been in the game for long, but I’ve had a total of two people ask me for freelancing tips, which makes me feel like I have enough experience to pack into one brief blog post. Here’s my tried and true advice for those trying break out on their own as a freelancer.
1. Build a good network.
In combination with good experience, networking is the best way to get any job. This is even more relevant when you are a freelancer, because your network will be able to direct you to new jobs when you’re running low on projects. Try joining a few professional networking groups near you, and always keep in touch with old clients (you never know when they’ll need someone with your skill set).
2. Do weekly reports for your clients.
Lay out exactly what you accomplished the week before and exactly what you’re going to do this week. Get your shit done on time every time. Trust and reliability make for a great consulting relationship.
3. Ask for more and charge by hour.
Whenever possible, charge your clients by hour - not by project. You can get in over your head on a big project and end up working many more hours than you originally laid out in your contract in order to finish a job and do it well.
Another thing: Don’t be afraid to charge for more than what you think a typical hourly rate for someone with your experience would be. Remember, you don’t have health insurance, retirement benefits or long-term job stability, all of which are plenty good reason to charge people a higher rate for your services than someone with a traditional 9-5.
4. Get a website and make a portfolio.
The best way to get more clients aside from networking is to be able to show off your work elegantly. Websites are a great way to show off your work easily and don’t cost much to get started and keep running.
For more experienced programmers, I would recommend using Wordpress.org so you have more control over the look of you site. For those who want an easier set-up, I built my first website on Wordpress.com and it was very simple to do and my website was totally functional.
5. Track your finances closely.
Keep track of everything you can write off, when you send invoices, and when you get paid. On average, you should be saving about 20% of every paycheck to put towards quarterly taxes. You can find out more about quarterly taxes here.
For me, 2013 kicked every other year’s ass. But many of the reasons why 2013 was awesome were actually because of something that happened in March of 2012, and a particular someone I met.
I came back from my 6-month stay in Ecuador in mid-February of 2012, and started bartending and waitressing at Black Lotus, my beloved local microbrewery, during my month off school in an effort to be a little less broke.
Since my Spanish was at its peak, I would sometimes talk to my customers who had strong Hispanic accents their native language (after I asked if they wanted to, of course). People usually loved knowing that they could speak Spanish with me, and it usually brought in big tips (always a plus).
One Hispanic person I met was Adriana, who was from Venezuela. We talked for an especially long time and I met her partner, Stacey. These women were the ultimate power couple. Adriana was a scientist at General Motors with a bunch of patents under her belt, and Stacey was a Senior VP at Merrill Lynch. We chatted, it was awesome, and we said we’d look forward to seeing each other around.
Fast forward nine months - I’m back at Black Lotus during my month-long winter break in December, again simply hoping to be less broke at the end of the month. One night while I was bartending, Stacey and Adriana happened to stop by. I told them I was back on break from college and I was going back to school in January to finish up my last two quarters and graduate. It turned out Stacey was also a Kalamazoo College alum, and she asked about my post-grad plans. I told her I was still considering my options, but hoping to do something with digital media.
Stacey graciously offered to put me in touch with every person she knew in Michigan who might have a connection for me. I sent her my resume along with a portfolio website I had recently launched, and she sent me a list of all the people and businesses she knew who might want to work with me.
As promised, on January 1, 2013, Stacey sent out a few dozen emails to some incredibly influential people across Michigan. A few of those people didn’t respond and a few didn’t have an open opportunities. Stacey was very helpful throughout the entire process, always encouraging her contacts to put me in touch with other people even if they didn’t have anything available.
It was through those emails that I found my first freelance clients, two incredible businesses in Detroit who were happy to have me work on digital media projects virtually from Kalamazoo while I finished up my degree. They also paid double and almost triple than what I was making at my part-time minimum wage job.
Working for these clients helped me form my own freelance business, which gave me the money to travel to Ecuador and Brazil this summer and eventually move to Chicago in August. I feel so incredibly lucky for the random connections and serendipitous experiences that led me here. I can say overall that I am very, very happy and very proud of myself for the things that I’ve accomplished this year. And a lot of that goes all the way back to speaking Spanish with a really nice customer at the bar in March of 2012.
So, to recap, here are the many other excellent things that happened in 2013 (because you don’t loathe me enough already):
That’ll do, 2013. That’ll do.