You win some, you lose some, and why boundaries matter

… and it’s nearly end of 2017.

What a rollercoaster year it’s been. With 3 clients under my belt, this year was considered pretty busy and yet I’ve ended up poorer and a little unhappy.

 

 

You win some …

Yes I got a number of contracts, and they’ve all been long term contracts +6 months. By the 3rd month, I started to feel my interest fade. So I’ve made it clear that going forward, I will try to wrap up projects quicker. And ongoing work will be considered as additional. Building an online shop, and creating virtual products has helped me clarify the types of services I offer, the price I expect to charge (for a reasonably sized project), and what the clients can expect of me through writing my terms.
This has also helped me clarify to myself boundaries both to set the client’s expectations, and for me to set my boundaries from the beginning. Such as making it clearer going forward how many rounds of editing to do, and agree on a project end date early on.

These are some fantastic lessons I’ve learnt. They’re really going to come in handy in the future.

You lose some …

In the process of inadvertently shifting my focus on doing the work, I’ve put aside music. And it ended up a lot more severe than I had thought and had planned. I wanted to still practice music on a regular basis, but once the projects started rolling, the client demands were incessant. I couldn’t get a break, and I kept worrying. And not knowing when the projects were to end, meant my stress levels were constantly through the roof. See setting up boundaries above.

Because I was so distant from myself, I was easily stressed and I was getting quite depressed! Considering how far I’ve fallen in the past, I heeded the warning signs this time, and took some time off in-between. Unfortunately, without those boundaries that I now realise are so utterly critical to my sanity, it only slowed down the build up but didn’t prevent or remove it completely.

But I’m still standing. And I’ve made my needs heard, loud and clear. And before this year end, I will have made further progress in the music aspects and lead me one step closer to my goal.

Things are in the works, such as my next podcast episode and some new music I’ve been working on … and if you want to support me on my journey, I’d love for you to do so via my Patreon page:

UX Writer? Marketing? Me?

My bedtime routine involves scrolling through social media feeds, while noticing the slow drool from my mouth  as my eyelids fall heavily.

Last night was no exception, that is until I stumbled on this uxbooth post on being a UX writer.

UX Writer wah ?! The words immediately resonated. I read and nodded through the entire article, chanting ‘yes yes this is what I do … I’m no longer a  Marketer!‘ followed by internal crying of relief (no disrespect to Marketers).

I’ve been writing procedural articles, designing email content and generally writing user friendly documents since the 2000’s. If a procedure wasn’t user friendly enough, or a training guide full of jargon, I’d be the first to jump at the opportunity to re-write it. But as far as a consultant role goes in corporate, that’s about as far as I could take my skills.

Fast forward to 2012 and I started work with Saasu in Client Services, within about 6 months I was promoted to Manager. I was delighted at the ability to design canned responses, FAQs, host one-on-one client calls, do customer satisfaction research, and train new staff. The great thing about a small company is that you can really get your hands in everything. So when the marketing team went looking, I came knocking.

Combined with a love for writing at an early age, experience writing for The AU Review, and all the Financial documents I’ve written in corporate, I pretty much hit the ground running. My only weakness? I had little care for advertising, or PR, or media, or events. I know. m.a.r.k.e.t.i.n.g.  oops.

Anyway I took a shot. Because why not. And I found that I still loved interacting with customers because I’m always asking ‘why‘ and ‘how can this be better for you‘.

That’s what I care about. Why do things? Who will it serve? How will it benefit us and society? Can people understand it? What do they need help with? etc.

Going back to the uxbooth article, there are 3 common responsibilities that define the role of a UX writer: research + writing + collaboration.

Basically those words live in my hood. They jive to my groove. They put the cream on the donut. Haha I made that last one up, you like?

Today, I’ve worked with Menuplicker developing copy and UX writing for their website and mobile app. I’ve helped 1Cover develop their internal training program as an Instructional Designer. And I’m currently spending regular parts of my week improving Squirrel Street’s community presence.

There’s a twist to this story …

I don’t hold a communications/media/journalism degree! I finished with a Bachelors in Business, and a post graduate degree in Art & Design where I honed in on my creative writing skills.

Just the other day I was rejected from Scripted for not meeting their editorial guidelines. I didn’t pass their 40 minute test, which frankly made me so nervous I apparently made some grammatical errors. If that’s their game, I don’t want to play.

The morning I received that email, I woke up feeling sorry for myself, and thinking loudly ‘OMG see? I’m not a writer. I should give up now.‘ Then later that week – bless his golden eyeglasses – Seth put out a post that basically said you either a) blame yourself, b) blame them for rejecting you, c) learn from your mistakes, d) learn to refocus on a more suitable area. Both c) & d) takes grit and resilience but they will take you where you want to go.

And also, hi, I’m Shasha, part UX writer, part musician 🙂

A lesson on mistakes and back-ups

So, at some point in time I decided that I needed a storefront to sell the content services I offer. People like to know upfront what they are in for and how much to budget for. And since I was sick and off work, I decided to give it a shot. And VOLA! Here is my >SHOP<!

shasha gong shop

Ok Ok … as you can see everything ended well. But what you don’t see is how one little code change had completely stuffed the server around and the entire shop just collapsed into a void … a void I couldn’t access!

I spent a good part of a whole day working on the site, and I was so pleased with myself. Everything looked good and was working. So like what everyone who’s in this position would do, we try to spruce things up a bit. Add bits here and there. That’s where things went wrong for me.

I read an article on how to change the eCommerce system’s default after purchase screen so that it’ll show my customised page. But I changed the code in the wrong PHP directory. So that messed it. Then when I went back to undo the changes … the whole thing just kinda died with the 500 (error code).

Recently I got my boyfriend to watch Halt and Catch Fire with me. I’ve been following it since it came out in 2014. And after just coming off the buzz from season 3, my boyfriend basically had no choice. He likes it anyway.

Anyway … there’s a massive story at Cardiff, where Cameron loses her program and all her back-ups weren’t working (without giving much away). That was basically how I was feeling by the end of the night. It was almost midnight and I was exhausted and feeling like a huge ass for not backing things up, and knowing I’d wake up the next day having to deal with re-writing everything.

I tried to clone the directory. Didn’t work.

I installed a new directory, copy and pasted some folders across. Didn’t work.

I tried pretty much all I could think of and nothing was working. So I raised a ticket with my hosting provider, see if they have a restore point I can use.

Thankfully, I opened my mobile and I had a cached version of my terms page (have you seen it? its hideous). So I quickly copied it and emailed it to myself, just in case I had to rewrite everything.

Then I fell asleep. Had some horrible dreams as expected.

But somewhere between my panic and sleep … and the reply I got from the techie … I got an idea. The techie said ‘I disabled your theme and the site is now working’.

I know, no major revelation. But … then I remembered how I deleted the theme folder in my clone directory and how I reinstalled it back. So I thought I’d try that with the actual shop directory.

BOOM! I fixed it, just like that.

What have you learnt Shasha?

Well … I made sure everything was working. I triple checked all my directories. And now I’m carefully going in, getting rid of all the trash, and about to backup all my directories. Always takes a lesson like this to learn what not to do! I’m afraid I’ll always remember this mistake, even though things worked out in the end and I don’t have to rewrite anything (thank goodnesssss!!!). But it could have been a disaster.

Also, panic gets you nowhere. Like, I know this, time and time again I know this. But for feck’s sake it just keeps getting triggered.

Clean up and back-up regularly folks!

And …

Mock Logic Games image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out my professional portfolio here.

As a freelancer newbie I made the biggest mistake

When I was about 15, I took the Nikon SLR for a spin one night and got some damn good pics of the moon for a first timer; I should scan the films. 15 years later, I’m still taking pictures of the moon, but with better equipment and more focused outcomes. And more understanding of photography too.

I also loved writing as for every job I had, my favourite activity was to write stuff.

I knew I loved these things and pursued them for a while, and grew from those experiences.

And experiences help you grow > gain new experiences > make mistakes and learn from them > grow some more. It’s a big long cycle.

As this year unfolded, I found myself handling a number of different projects as a freelancer newbie. And of course I had to make the biggest mistake a freelancer newbie can make.

What’s that you say? Allow me to explain.

The last 6 months hasn’t been easy. Reality didn’t match up to theory. In theory, taking on some new projects was going to free up a bunch of time for me to work on my music. In reality, I was so busy at times I had forgotten to breathe. How did it happen like that?

Well, I made the mistake of charging for project work at an hourly rate. It’s not about the money but about expectations. Charging hourly is literally telling your client ‘I’m at your disposal until whenever …’. And I ended up feeling like being owned, being on call, without any of the benefits of a permanent employment situation! Not cool.

And realistically speaking, just because I was working from home didn’t mean I could switch on/off to work on music. In reality, I was stressing over the projects a lot longer than I thought I would. My sense of accountability rang high and loud and I couldn’t unwind from the projects to focus on music. Because I would be distracted.

The only times I could focus on my music was where I knew I could get a day of peace, where I didn’t need to check emails, make phone calls, talk to people. And those days were not the same days I was working from home.

In theory, charging by the hour sounds great at the start. I have a lot of flexibility around how and when I work, and the mentality of “you think you can make big bucks because of your hourly rate“. However I think this only works if you have a very high rate (which I didn’t). I found that I was getting more efficient and the hourly rates were not on my side, I had to work longer and that always end up meaning doing work that isn’t covered in my initial rates!

Plus there’s only so many hours you can work in a day.

Not to mention the stress that comes with working on multiple projects for multiple companies that left me feeling completely flat and thin.

Addition: Research to prove that charging hourly rates commoditise time!

So after I published this blog post, I started reading Wait by Frank Partnoy, who pointed me to some research by Sanford DeVoe (the full study is here). And basically the old adage ‘time is money’ seems to be reality. The fact that I’ve commoditised time meant I started thinking about how I was using my time (at work, outside of work) and started to calculate missed opportunities to earn more money. That’s crazy! That’s why I couldn’t relax or even focus on other things …

What I’ve learnt

There were some huge learning curve and through discussions with my business advisor, I learnt about package pricing.

There is all the benefits of freelancing, plus the right expectations. I’m sure the first few goes I may inaccurately calculate my time, but once I get going I can’t imagine it to be worse than hourly rates.

Projects that freelancers pick up are often short term, and you need to set very clear boundaries around what you will and won’t do. Self preservation is important! And knowing an end date helps with sanity; you know when it’s due and you can plan ahead.

All the frustration helped me put together a contract template and a package pricing template to be used next time. And most importantly I put in place clear boundaries for my current projects so I am not so overwhelmed.

It also helps to find a third person to talk to about issues and ideas, to bounce things off and get some perspective. It was during those sessions that I got very clear about what I was and wasn’t doing right, and I made the opportunities to change things for the better.

Next step: making the time to meet my music deadline at the end of this year! I think I’m getting there slowly … with my latest track.

Check out my professional portfolio here.