Asking For Money: Why We’re Afraid To Do It and Why We Shouldn’t Be!

A contact of mine — let’s call her Nancy — mentioned something that happened to her:

A freelancer she’d hired with whom she’d become friends with during the course of a project started sending vague ‘What’s up’ texts.

“It wouldn’t have been awkward,” Nancy said, “if they actually had something to say or share, but it was just text-y small talk. You know, ‘What’re you doing?’ and ‘How’s things?’ We don’t small talk in person. Why would we small talk on text?”

Even though emotions are notoriously difficult to decipher in texts, “I knew something was up. I could just feel it.”

Turns out, she was right.

As a result of some recent life drama she’d completely forgotten to issue payment on the freelancer’s latest invoice. She knew she was the one to blame for the slip and apologized, saying she’d pay them right away — “I was mortified. How could I forget to pay them?” — but the freelancer was also apologetic… for bringing up the subject in the first place!

“That struck me as weird,” Nancy said.

And, I agreed: It is weird. But also, sadly common.

Why Are We Afraid To Ask For OUR Money?

Can you imagine your telephone company apologizing for asking you to pay your bill? Of course not! They’ve provided a service with the expectation that they’ll given money that is, in a way, already theirs.

So why are so many freelancers shy about asking to be paid? Just off the top of my head, maybe they’re worried they…

  • #1: Won’t receive future work from that particular client if they nag for payment.
  • #2: Will be told their work isn’t any good and that’s why they’re not being paid.
  • #3: Have a client who never actually intended to pay.

There may be others, but these three particular fears stand out. However, when broken down, they’re actually pretty pointless. Here’s why.

Worry #1: Fear of No Future Work

Has it ever happened that a client will not offer more work if you nag for payment? YES. However, the keyword here is “nag.”

There is a critical difference between professionally asking for payment (even professionally demanding payment) and nagging about it. The latter involves whining, complaining, pleading, insulting the client, and other annoying dialogue that will only manage to get you blacklisted and not respected (or paid).

If you’re sure you’re being professional and the client is still playing hard to get, consider this:

Do you want the kind of client you have to wrestle money out of at the end of every project? If your answer is “no” (and it should be!), then just get payment ASAP for what you’ve already done and let them go their merry way.

Then there’s this: If your fear of not getting rehired is getting in the way of you asking for payment, then freelancing simply isn’t for you. Sorry, guy.

But, if you’re willing to bravely face the “Pay me” discussion, there are

Ways To Reduce Your Anxiety Over Getting Paid

  • Write a Contract and include an arbitration clause.
  • Write a Contract and include terms for an upfront deposit.
  • Write a Contract and set terms for payment at project milestones, like:
    • Setting up an escrow account in a money handling service like PayPal, or
    • Directly arranging the work through a site like Upwork, where escrow is already a fixture in the system.

I mention WRITE A CONTRACT multiple times because doing business without a contract is just asking for trouble. Contracts are Freelancing 101 and, if you don’t have one handy to present to clients at the start of every job, I strongly encourage you to draft one now.

 

Incorporating details like an arbitration clause, upfront deposit terms, or payment deadline terms can help payments stay on track and on time and leave your worries to more critical matters… like just doing a good job on the project!

Worry #2: “Your work isn’t worth it.”

Let’s consider what “freelancing” means in the first place.

By definition, a freelancer is “a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.”

No commitment to any one employer? It sounds so… freeing, doesn’t it? ::wink:wink:: But that also means that the employer (or client) also has no commitment to YOU other than those terms they’ve agreed on and are legally held to (you know, via your contract).

There are two good reasons to nix this worry in the bud.

First, if payment is dependent on TIME (i.e. $/hour), you should get paid for work done even if the client doesn’t like the end result. This is part of the hourly arrangement: pay is largely independent of product (unless, of course, the product is grossly disastrous, in which case you should let the client keep their money).

Flat fee arrangements are tougher to negotiate, as they more strongly imply a product-dependent payment system (“I’ll pay you for 5 hours spent writing XYZ” vs “I’ll pay you $100 for an article on XYZ.”).

Either way, consider including one or both of the following in your contract(s):

A. Require an upfront deposit (e.g. 30% or 50% of the full fee, or the equivalent of 5 hours of work) before you even begin. This encourages the client to feel vested in you and the project and offers them the opportunity to show they’re serious about holding to their end of the bargain.

B. Use an Escrow service. Arrange escrow through PayPal or set up the job through a writing brokerage, like Guru, Upwork, or Servicescape (though, beware: ServiceScape demands a steep 50% commission!).

The main trouble with using a writing brokerage is that if the client hasn’t used it before they’ll have to set up an account and learn how to use a new platform, which they may not be eager or willing to do. In this way, PayPal is easier because the client doesn’t need an account to deposit funds into a PayPal escrow.

Finally, let’s say the client really did intend to pay you and they are dedicated to the project. What gives? Well, it’s time to ask yourself a hard question:

Is your work worth paying for, or not?

Either you produce a good product or you don’t. Unless the client can point out glaringly obvious reasons why they shouldn’t pay you (e.g. outlandish editing mistakes, blatant spelling errors, or an article that’s off-topic) clients may use the excuse “I don’t like it” to see if you’ll let them off the hook.

Why would they want to get off the hook? Two reasons come to mind:

  1. They changed their mind about the project. Maybe jumped the gun and hired you before thinking it through, or didn’t realize that a writing project is actually a lot of work (for them, lots of reviewing and approving your work). Or…
  2. They didn’t realize how much it would cost and are facing sticker shock. (See “Hard Truth #3” HERE.)

Don’t give in: Neither of these excuses are your fault and you still deserve your money! Be firm about receiving payment, about the amount due, and about your end product, especially if the client had many chances to cancel the job or make changes along the way that would have alleviated the above two problems.

Worry #3: The client never intended to pay.

Unfortunately, this does happen. And it doesn’t feel good because you realize you’ve basically been scammed. In fact, one of my first clients hired me to write a few product descriptions for $10 apiece. After I submitted the work, they fell off the map.

Classy.

Look, some people will do this. Why? Because some people are jerks. And even with safeties in place to protect yourself, something as small as $100 due won’t get you much attention in small claims court or be worth the trouble of hiring an arbitrator. In my case, I wrote it off as a learning experience and a monetary loss on my taxes.

 

At the end of the day, a solid contract with clear terms and expectations from both parties will help alleviate anxiety over all aspects of payment, from initial deposit to milestone payments to final invoice.

Other than that, all you need to do is provide a product worth paying for.


Have you had any experiences with non-payment? Share your stories — and solutions — in the comments.

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Putting My Mouth Where My Money Is: Setting A Fair Rate & Sticking To It!

I wrote recently about drawing lines when it comes to money in freelancing. And, today, I had to put those brave words into practice.

Today, I sent off a well-formed quote to a potential client.


As a freelancer, I have a history of erring on the side of self-doubt, which often left me working hard for not much pay.

That’s not a fun place to be in, ever. Seasoned freelancers know that charging fair rates — fair to both you and the client — is one of the biggest hurdles to get over when learning how to operate your business.

I spoke to a long-time freelancer friend last year who does graphic design. She’s GREAT at it. She’d been working in the industry as a freelancer twice as long as I had been at the time we talked, maybe even longer, and she admitted she still undercharged clients on a regular basis. We vowed to keep one another in line when it came to charging properly for our services.

I didn’t really work — I mean, it did at first, but the novelty of having a money angel on my shoulder soon wore off and I went back to my old habits of undercharging.

But, now, I’ve finally come to the stage in my career where I’m taking myself seriously. Seriously.

You see, I wrote those articles in April for ME as much as I did for YOU.

I needed someone on my side who wasn’t distracted by a client’s dangling carrot, the job that I “could” have but maybe wouldn’t because “What if I charged too much?”

I needed a voice of reason, spoken from a place of neutrality, to bring me back to center.

I knew what I knew, but I was hesitant to apply that knowledge whenever it came time to actually tell clients what I wanted to charge. Instead, I’d doubt myself (again) and fall into the trap of bidding what I thought my clients wanted me to charge.

Stupid. I know.

So I read a ton of blogs on how to bill clients, how to estimate a job, about how undervaluing your work actually does more harm than good… I read a LOT on the subject, but I still didn’t want to take the leap.

I was still afraid. Why?

We live in an age of cheapness. As a culture, we love discounts, sales, clearances, coupons, and finding the lowest price. Paying full price is thrown around like a status symbol — “Oh, look what could afford!” — whereas buying something for a discounted rate is, for the rest of us Scrooges, something to brag about.

However, as thrifty consumers, we also know that the lowest price doesn’t always equal the best value and can so often mean less-than-mediocre work,

Sending that quote out today was uncomfortable, yes, but only because I’d been drastically undercharging clients for far too long.

What does drastically undercharging look like?

Undercharging looks like a my fresh-out-of-high-school, year-2000-minimum-wage (that is, $7.50/hour), even though I have a Bachelor’s Degree, four years of experience, and multiple projects and happy clients under my belt.

Undercharging looks like Textbroker basics (500 word articles for $5 each) on a full-time basis, as a necessity and not as a supplement when I’m bored or a quick daily writing exercise to get my brain warmed up.

Ultimately, undercharging looks like making myself look cheap and my work look cheap because I’ve mentally displayed it on the discount rack instead of front and center, on a fancy end cap, with the premium goods.

I am not a low-end writer.

There’s a market for low-cost writers who’ll pop out content for pennies on the proverbial dollar just like there’s a market for discount clothes, tech equipment, and kitchen tools. Heck, I used to be in that market when I was just starting out, needing experience over money.

But I’m not in that market anymore.

Now I’m here to provide quality goods at a fair price. Yes, my clients may have to come to expect bigger numbers on the bill, but they’ll also notice the quality I provide is worth it. Unless they aren’t looking to spend the money…

In which case, I’ll suggest they find someone on a freelance brokerage site like Upwork, Textbroker, or others where there are plenty of discount writers available for hire at discount rates.


What are your experiences with pricing your work as a freelancer? Join the conversation here or on Facebook.

Drawing the Line: Conclusions

This entry is one part of an April 2017 Mountain Owl blog series on drawing lines in freelance work. To read the previous post, click HERE.

It’s Wednesday, April 26th. I’ve purposely waited to publish this post today instead of Tuesday, which is the day I’d been posting previous blogs of this series this past month.

What makes today special? Well…

admin prof day

It’s a special day for secretaries, admin assistants, and all you freelancers out there tackling your insane list of to-do’s on a day-to-day basis. I know you’re often underappreciated for all the crap you juggle, so here’s a hat’s off to you crazy folk for hanging in there. (If you’re wondering how this relates to the blog topic, visit my first post.)

But, to get to the real subject…


Hopefully you’ve done lots of line drawing in the past three weeks.

By now you know how important it is for both YOU and your BUSINESS that you draw lines (that is, create boundaries) for yourself and your clients.

Here’s the recap:

  • On TIME…
    1. It’s the only thing nobody can make more of and the single most valuable asset you have. Spend it wisely, and be frugal with giving it away.
    2. Learn to take breaks. Working too much can have a negative impact on your health and reduce your creativity.
    3. ACTION PLAN: Establish your office hours, post them, and, most importantly, ENFORCE them. Nobody will respect your hours of operation if you don’t either.
    4. If you work from home, get out of your PJs and put on some adulting clothes. It’ll help your brain get into gear and out of that at-home-and-lazy lull.
    5. Creating time boundaries comes down to RESPECT.
  • On MONEY…
    1. Time is your biggest asset, money is your second.
    2. “What do you charge?” is the toughest question a client can ask. Be prepared to answer it and stand by your answer.
    3. If you don’t take your money seriously, no one else will. People are naturally cheap, so don’t let a client swindle you into thinking your price is too high or let your lack of confidence make you question your rates (which you hopefully set within some reasonable guidelines). If the client wants your services, they’ll pay for them. If they don’t, they won’t. It’s that simple.
    4. NEVER work for free! Don’t let anyone act as if your time isn’t worth something. Nothing is “quick”, nothing is “free”, and people will either see value or they won’t.
    5. Start with a base rate, post it, then stick by it (with some flexibility). Remember: Bartering is also a form of payment. If a client can’t afford to pay you cash money, perhaps there is something else they can offer you that would be worth your effort.
    6. In the end, setting your value is about RESPECT.

Did you notice a common theme with those final points? That’s right: RESPECT.

In the end, drawing lines comes down to RESPECT. 

rooster.jpg

BWAAAK!

Without a strong sense of self-respect and a respect for your business — and an expectation that clients will also respect you and your business — you’ll be hard-pressed to find satisfaction in your work. (However, be sure to distinguish between self-respect and cockiness. Nobody wants to work with a rooster!)

Everyone, in every business and occupation, freelance or not, needs to know what they’re willing to do for a paycheck and where they draw the line. 

So, yeah, this serie’s lessons on applying boundaries to business can and should be applied to life, too. Surprise! #Lifelessons #HappyWriting


This entry is the final part of an April 2017 Mountain Owl blog series on drawing lines in freelance work.

Drawing the Line: Money

This entry is one part of an April 2017 Mountain Owl blog series on drawing lines in freelance work. To read the previous post, click HERE.

Last week I talked about how time is your most precious resource.

This week I want to address the thing we spend our time chasing: Money.

Hopefully by now you’ve established some good boundaries for yourself and your clients in regard to when you’re available. If you haven’t, read (or re-read) last week’s post.

Again, you either have lines, or you don’t.

If you don’t want lines, that’s fine. Some people don’t care for them. Maybe you feel like boundaries negatively impact your creativity, or prevent you from doing your best work.

But if you’re resisting drawing time lines for yourself because you’re a workaholic, maybe consider that studies show taking breaks increase productivity, information retention, creativity, focus, and overall happiness.

Time off doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? Still, while

Time is your biggest asset, money is your second.

That’s right: Money isn’t only a goal, it’s also an asset.

The adage “It takes money to make money” rings true, especially for freelancers who have to spend it on things like office supplies, fuel, and marketing efforts in order to keep business going. (Psst… a bookkeeping program like GoDaddy Bookkeeping can help keep track of expenses and incomes for only $9.99/month. I’ve been using it since 2013.)

At the end of the day what freelancers reinvest in our business will (or should) earn us more in the long run than if we get sticky fingers on all of it now.

Another thing about money: It’s a touchy subject. Discussing fees and negotiating rates is one of the most disliked tasks of freelancers, and some think “What do you charge?” is the toughest question a client could ask.

If that’s where you’re at, prepare to step up, get tough, and set yourself a money line, because

If you don’t take your money seriously, no one else will.

One of the most frustrating things I’ve encountered is people asking me to do work for free, for the “exposure” or “experience”. Even jokes about this make me boil. It’s like someone saying, “Well, you only write as a hobby, so would you mind looking this over? It’ll only take a few minutes.”

It’s insulting to my business. It’s insulting to me as a professional. It’s insulting to my dream and all my efforts.

It’s just insulting.

I have an even harder time expressing my emotions when a friend or family member asks me to do something and give them “the family discount”.

Sorry. I don’t do discounts. (Although I do barter.)

That’s why I’ve learned over the years to say bluntly “I charge $45 per hour” to anyone who might be implying that I do something “quickly” and for no charge.

First of all, nothing is “quick”.

I’ve never edited anything — not an email, not an ad, not a 250- or 500-word article — and had it take only a couple minutes. The quickest job I had was editing an email with notations in 15 minutes. At my standard rate, that’s an $11.25 bill.

And if $1 is worth McDonald’s charging for a soda, then $11.25 is worth me billing over.

Second of all, nothing is “free”.

Admittedly, even my offer for a “free consultations” aren’t free. Maybe in the sense that no cash is directly exchanged, but they aren’t free for me or for my potential client, because we’re both spending our time on it.

A free consult is essentially a time barter. It’s still an exchange of valuable assets, even if they aren’t obviously monetary.

Thirdly, either there’s demand or there isn’t.

Either the person asking you for help wants your expertise or they don’t. Either they’ll think it’s worth it the money, or they won’t. Either they respect your business, or they don’t.

If they’re the latter, pass up the offer. Do it professionally, of course, but do it swiftly and clearly. Stop that little spark from turning into a fire that says, ‘Well, they didn’t say no, so I assumed they were going to do it!’

Don’t let anyone assume anything. Don’t let them assume you’ll work for nothing and don’t let them assume you have a “friends & family rate”. And, most of all,

Don’t let them assume your time isn’t worth something.

You drew boundaries on your time because it’s your most valuable resource. Now it’s time to draw boundaries on the VALUE of your time because YOU are valuable.

In the end, drawing lines is about valuing YOURSELF.

This video says all you need to know about what it means to work for nothing except “exposure”. It may be funny to watch, but if you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur who’s had to live this scenario you know the humor only lasts for those first five seconds when you think the person needing the work done is joking.

How To Draw Your Money Line

#1: Start with a STANDARD FEE or BASE RATE…

This is your minimum rate. You can say per hour, per 500-word article, per page, per-whatever, but set it and let it be.

Not sure what your rate should be? Consider peeking at the Writer’s Market’s “How Much Should I Charge” document. It’s outdated, sure, but do some calculations to factor in your experience and inflation since 2006 (according to the US Dept of Labor, $1 in 2006 is like $1.22 in 2017) and you’ll have a good starting point.

#2: …then POST IT…

Like with hours of operation, make your standard fee (aka base rate) obvious to potential and current clients. Post this rate on your website or social media page, or on any ads that you might put out.

(TIP: If you’re a member of freelancing brokerage sites like Upwork.com, be sure your posted rate there is the same as the rate posted on your website. Then smart clients who check out your background won’t think you’re trying something fishy by charging a premium to customers who contact you directly through your website.)

Mountain Owl posts standard hourly rate and others in a table format via a link on our Services tab.

#3: …then BE FLEXIBLE.

Get this through your brain: Your base rate is just a starting point. If a job requires more time than usual, explain to the client why you need to charge more than the usual BEFORE starting the contract.

For example, I once received a job offer to edit ESL (English as a Second Language) manuscripts that I knew would take me longer to work through and would be more difficult. Therefore, I charged the ESL client more, because it literally took me longer to edit ESL work than it does to edit work written by native English speakers.

It’s a matter of time = money, not social discrimination.

Even though it may be uncomfortable, honesty pays off here. Clients like to know why you charge what you charge, especially when the rate they’re being charged is more than standard. They may not like it or be happy about it, but at least you can give them solid logic to back up your rates.

If they don’t like the logic, thank them for their time and move on. If they’re reasonable, they’ll understand and be willing to pay up.

Either way, it’s a win-win for you.

~ ~ ~

In the end, drawing the money line comes down to RESPECT. 

That is, respecting your business, respecting your profession, and demanding that those you work for and with respect it as well.


Join me next week, April 25th, as I conclude this Drawing the Line series. This entry is one part of an April 2017 Mountain Owl blog series on drawing lines in freelance work.

External related articles: (1) Owais, Samar. “5 Brutal Truths About Setting Your Freelance Writing Rates.”

Drawing the Line: Time

This entry is one part of an April 2017 Mountain Owl blog series on drawing lines in freelance work. To read the previous post, click HERE.

One thing about time: It’s the only thing nobody can make more of.

Nobody can give you more time. And, contrary to popular belief, you can’t save time either. Saving something means you’re putting it away to be used later. Like a squirrel saves acorns by burying them in the ground. Or how I save a half bag of Skittles so I can munch on them after dinner…

*Snort* Okay. That’s a lie. I’ve never saved a half a bag of Skittles in my life.

Either way, you can’t tuck away five minutes here, ten minutes there, put them away in a special bag and pop up later with twenty hours and say, ‘Hey! I’m gonna spend this on a trip to the Bahamas!’

Uh, no. It doesn’t work like that. (I wish!)

The only thing you can do with time is SPEND IT WISELY. Whether you spend it lazing on the beach or typing ten billion emails to people who may not care about what you have to say, the time will tick away at equal speed.

In this series’ introduction, I spoke at length about the Administrative Professional (the AP). I use AP’s as primary examples of line drawers because they have to be in order to do their jobs well AND with joy.

One can do the physical task of secretarial work without expressing joy while doing it (we’ve all met that secretary). Equally, one can be incapable of fulfilling the job’s requirements and seem strangely happy with themselves. Weird.

However, both these types suffer a lack of lines: they either don’t care to have lines or know where their lines should be and yet allow people to smear, move, ignore, or erase them.

As I’ve said before,

You either have lines, or you don’t.

Everyone’s line is drawn in a different place. We’re all willing to go a certain distance without feeling like we’re teetering on the edge of our personal ethics. But beware: Once you step over that edge, unhappiness sinks in.

Which is why it’s so important to know where your lines are. Only you know where your line lays. Everyone else will demand something of you until they learn — by YOU telling them — when they have asked for too much.

Until you tell them where to stop, they will keep pushing, demanding, and asking. That’s why I say YOU must know where YOUR lines are in order to enforce them.

If you don’t know where your lines are, figure it out NOW. Not later, not tomorrow. TODAY. Right NOW.

Why?

Because the longer you go without knowing where or when to tell people “No” the longer you’ll live pleasing others while giving up on your own ethics and not understanding why you feel unhappy in your relationships, ignored by your boss(es) and co-workers, or dissatisfied with your work.

Above ALL things,

Time is your biggest asset.

People think knowledge is their greatest asset, but knowledge must be maintained (through continued training) and can be lost (e.g. dementia, simple forgetfulness).

Experience — the combination of knowledge and time — is a great asset, too, but it can quickly fall to the wayside, as anyone who’s been out of the workforce for any amount of time can tell you after trying to get back in.

Time is the only thing you have that people can’t give you more of and that nobody can take from you. Period.

It’s been said that people show what matters to them by how they spend their time. I believe that’s 110% true.

Drawing a line in regard to your time is the most important line you can ever draw. Don’t draw it with a pencil, or a ballpoint pen. Pull out one of those super-wide black Sharpies and mark the shit out of the wall and say, ‘Hey! This is my time line, and it will not be crossed!’

I can’t tell you where your time line should be drawn, but I can tell you it took me a while to figure out how and where to draw mine.

As I mentioned before, freelancing is something of an administrative professional position. The only difference is that instead of acting as a buffer to protect my boss, I have to be the buffer to protect myself.

Instead of being able to say, ‘The boss is unavailable right now,’ and passing blame onto the absent bossman, I have to say ‘I’m unavailable right now,’ which can sometimes result in the client asking why can’t I be available? Aren’t they important enough?

But I’ve learned not to ignore the whining. Why?

Because when the clock crosses the time line into MY time — not my client’s time, my business’ time, a project’s time — I’m done. Finito. Checked out. Unavailable.

I can’t count the number of clients I’ve had (and still get) who expect me to answer the phone during dinner hour; respond to an email or text immediately; or work on weekends (or during a pre-announced vacation!).

I’ve had to put my foot down, say “I don’t work weekends” firmly and without apology. (I used to say “I don’t work weekends, sorry,” but quickly stopped doing that once I realized what I was really saying!)

I’ve learned to ignore work emails during MY time. Yes, I’m possessive of it. Yes, some people don’t understand. And, yes: I. Don’t. Care.

As a freelancer, you have to tough up and remember your line, even at the risk of sounding unaccommodating to your clients. If they don’t get it, it’s only because somewhere along the way they decided their needs are more important than you are.

And, if they threatened to find someone else to do the job, those aren’t the sort of clients that I’d care to chase after. So, here’s my easy 1-2-3-step plan on

How To Draw Your Time Line

#1: Establish your office hours.

Much of drawing your lines is simply understanding that, although you are a freelancer, you’re also an office. When you “go” to work, you should be dressing as if you’re going to an office (which puts your brain into working mode) and clock in when you get there.

If your office opens at 9 AM, you’re available starting at 9 AM. If you’re a part-time freelancer like me and your office opens at 12noon, you’re available starting at noon. (By the way, this doesn’t mean you only work four hours a day. It just means you’re available to clients for calls, emails, conferences, etc for those four hours. Trust me: I work much more than four hours a day!)

The same goes for closing time: If you clock out at 5pm,  you’re unavailable after 5.

If you run the kind of office that is only available by appointment, then make that clear. If you think of yourself more like a 7-11 service station, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, then make that clear.

Basically, treat yourself like a brick-and-mortar store front. When the doors open, you’re open; when they close, you’re closed. You don’t see a retail business opening its doors for a customer after closing hours, do you? So why should you open your doors after you’ve clocked out?

#2: Post your office hours.

When you finally decide upon your hours of operation, post those hours in an inconspicuous location so people can see them. Businesses usually post their hours outside their front doors; if you have an office you work from where you invite clients to come, this tactic can work for you. If you don’t have a physical office, you’ll need to find another way to publicize your availability.

I encourage posting your hours on your website, social media page, or printing them on your business card.

Mountain Owl posts our hours on our website homepage, near the bottom right next to our contact page link (“Give a Hoot”) as well as the top of our contact page itself.

#3: Enforce your office hours.

Many freelancers are inundated with the concept that they have to give up their personal lives in order to be successful in their work. I firmly believe that line of thinking is quickly going the way of the dodo. Younger generations (and science) are realizing the negative impact working too much can have on our health.

This is by far the most difficult part. As I’ve mentioned, some clients believe their project and needs should come before your personal time, but don’t give in to the guilt-ridden adage “The customer is always right.” They aren’t. In fact, many times they’re flat out wrong and — yes — it’s up to you to correct them by enforcing your own rules about how you should spend your precious, precious time.

~ ~ ~

In the end, drawing the line comes down to respecting yourself. 

That is, respecting your needs as a whole person and realizing that, as a whole person, you have emotional, physical, and psychological needs that require you take time away from work (even work you love) to spend in leisure.


Join me next week, April 18th, as I talk about Drawing the Line: Money. This entry is one part of an April 2017 Mountain Owl blog series on drawing lines in freelance work.

External related articles: (1) https://paydirtapp.com/blog/the-effective-guide-to-setting-boundaries-as-a-freelancer; (2) Russell, Bertrand. “In Praise of Idleness,” 1932. WEB: http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html.

Drawing the Line: An Introduction

This month, Mountain Owl Ink celebrates it’s fourth year.

WOW. It’s hard to imagine I’ve been freelancing that long. Seriously: I’ve held this job longer than any other position on my resume. Ever. That’s impressive!

In light of this milestone, I’m going to blog-share my thoughts with you on one topic that I feel is absolutely CRITICAL to longevity as a freelancer: Limits.

That includes both the limits we put on ourselves and the limits we put upon others (ie our clients). It means setting boundaries for all kinds of things.

And this three-part blog (not including this introduction) titled “Drawing the Line” will be published as follows over this month of April:

  1. April 11th: Drawing the Line: Time
  2. April 18th: Drawing the Line: Money
  3. April 25th: Drawing the Line: Respect

But, first, I want to explain why drawing solid, clear lines — not implied, hinted-at, fuzzy, or hazy ones — is so critical…


Wednesday, April 26, 2017, is Administrative Professional’s Day.

Anyone who has ever been employed as an administrative professional knows it’s no easy job. As an AP, you often get blamed by both sides of the desk — your boss and the customer — for things you have no control over.

AP’s are undoubtedly the delectable cream holding the cookie together (and bosses realize this only when their secretaries take a well-earned vacation or sick day), yet AP’s are all too often treated as some kind of human shielding that protects the executives and their offices from the dangerous wiles of the < gulp > PUBLIC.

According to the Western Journal of Education, Vol. 28, page 14 (published Jan 1922):

“The secretary, acting as the buffer between the businessman and the public, represents a very necessary, desirable, and efficient type of citizenship.

That was in 1922. Here we are in 2017, almost 100 years later, and the Western attitude about secretarial jobs has changed from one of high respect to one of pity.

Nowadays, secretarial work is largely considered low-level, menial, and base-pay employment, something that only new high school grads or empty-nesters do because they (supposedly) lack job skills or are bored. Secretaries are often considered easily replaceable and their positions undervalued where wages are considered. People who spend their working years in secretarial positions are dubbed “underperformers” and the skills required to be a good administrative professional go largely underestimated because, you know, it’s a “basic” job.

It’s like people thinking being a housewife is “easy.” The insult is hardly worth arguing.

But, I digress…

I used to be an admin professional. In some ways, I still am.

My first experience as such was as a secretary at a law office during college. One dreary week, I ended up having to tell a number of the office’s clients that the firm’s senior attorney had died unexpectedly. To some of the less empathetic clients, the attorney’s passing was somehow my fault and now their case would go down the shoot all because of me. How dare I.

Then I was a retail clerk for various companies during college. Being a retail clerk is a different breed (maybe even a hybrid) of administrative professional but the position still maintained the essence of secretarial work: severe multi-tasking, lots of computer knowledge, and, most of all, serving as the almighty buffer between executive and customer.

Then I was an HR Assistant, just a bit different from the Front Desk folk but I still proudly held tight claims to my admin professional roots. After all, I still had to deal with irate customers (i.e. job applicants) over the phone (or in person… *shiver*) and handle all manner of administrative tasks (“How many copies do you need again?”, “How many orientation packets am I making today?”, “What meetings am I scheduling for you?”).

After HR-ing for a bit, I dove into freelance writing. And, in some ways, I consider freelancing to be an administrative professional position. But more on that later…

Why do I single out Administrative Professionals? Because the people in that field are one of two sorts: They’re either experts at drawing lines and love their jobs or they have no idea how to draw lines and feel hopelessly at the mercy of bosses and customers alike.

For AP’s, there is no in-between. You either have lines, or you don’t.

The latter don’t last long as AP’s and end up either…

  1. …seeking new employment (sadly, many times as an AP at another company because they fail to realize why it wasn’t working out with their former employer), or…
  2. …getting fired because the work has driven them mad, disorganized, unsociable, and therefore unable to perform their job requirements.

AP’s who fail to draw lines quickly burn out, feeling unappreciated, disrespected, and downright trodden.

The former type, however, thrive. They understand and accept — nay, revel! — in their roles as Administrative Professionals. They know when and how to say “No” to both boss and customer, and when they say no they know to stick to it.

They refuse to do anything that is against their work or life ethic. For some, that means saying no to running errands for the boss after hours to gain their favor. (Psst… You’re already getting paid. Consider that an expression of their favor! You don’t need to do extra credit to earn your way!)

For others, that means not taking work calls on a personal phone (or responding to messages sent to a personal email), or ignoring text messages from the boss who decides that texting you at 10pm is an appropriate way to communicate. (Hint: It’s NOT.)

But this concept of lines stems from a single, critical point of understanding and self-awareness. That point is this:

The Administrative Professional must know where their lines are in order to enforce them.

Which begs the question: Do YOU know where YOUR lines are?


This entry is an introduction to an April 2017 Mountain Owl blog series on drawing lines in freelance work. To read the next post, click HERE.

External related articles: (1) https://blog.freelancersunion.org/2014/05/12/i-will-do-not-how-set-boundaries-your-clients; (2) http://freelancetofreedomproject.com/10-client-boundaries-to-have-in-place-as-a-freelancer

Journal Entry, July 14: Free the Elephants

You never know what people hear when you talk. You could be going on some long, well thought out diatribe about global warming and all they pick out is that one sentence on how monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles every fall. Forget about the ice caps melting, the polar bears, the whales, and the drowning of New York City. It’s the butterflies they’ll remember.

The same goes with passing mentions of odd little things between friends and strangers. For instance, a woman who plays the drums in my church mentioned in passing a few weeks ago about journaling and how the practice might be construed as a way to commune with God on a deeper level.

I’m a collector of empty notebooks, the kind that are bound with thick, decorative covers and delicately lined pages. I actually have to stop myself from buying them. (Hint: They’ll always be a great gift in my book!) On vacation recently to Nashville, Tennessee, I found myself coveting a shelf full of notebooks of assorted sizes for several long minutes. Some of the notebooks had little (albeit useless) locks on them, some had little brass hinges in place of goopy binding glue… oh, the temptation!

But, I digress. I have (had?) a couple of empty notebooks sitting around my house; others aren’t completely empty, but sit half written in according to their subject designation (one is for song ideas and music writing, another for sketches, etc). One in particular I recently received as a gift from a client with Psalm 118:24 inscribed on the cover and a new verse on the top corner of every right-hand page. So pretty and so inspiring, but I couldn’t figure out what to use it for.

This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. — Psalm 118:24

Then this drummer lady mentioned journaling. Hm, I thought. Perhaps I ought to give that a go. So I did: On July 4, 2016, I made my first entry. On July 14, I made my second.

It’s the second entry I wish to share with you today.

Take into consideration that this is edit-free: no erasures, no deletions, just pure, train-of-thought writing, typed out just as it’s written (brackets and all). I hope you enjoy reading it and that it gives you something to think on as you go about your day. And, as you read, consider these questions:

  • What makes a person an “elephant”?
  • Are YOU an elephant?
  • What are the shackles in your life?

(Note: The verses mentioned are the ones listed at the tops of the pages I wrote on. Coincidentally enough, they’re applicable to my entry, though I didn’t plan it that way as you can see by my post script entry.)

~

A friend loves at all times. — Proverbs 17:17

Something about elephants. A few days ago while driving I had an epiphany but, of course, because I was driving I couldn’t grab a pen and jot it down, if only to remind myself later about the epiphany I had earlier.

But now it’s gone. All I know is it had something to do with elephants. Maybe if I talk (write) about it long enough it’ll occur to me again, an epiphany refreshed. But — yes — something about elephants with shackles on their ankles.

Funny how I can remember exactly where I was on the road when I had said epiphany. I was driving south on Highway 52, just past the farm that once had a herd of cattle but now no more (slaughter, I assume), at the crest of a hill with the anti-abortion sign on the right and the “sweet corn ahead – closed” sign on the left. The crest of the hill that’s lush with grass (no crop this season; a year of rest for the earth there? A sabbath for the soil?) and I looked out over it, pondering all matter of things in my radio-free (by choice, not because of radio malfunction) drive home, when–Ah ha! Enlightenment! But now all I have is “something about elephants with shackles on their ankles.

Disappointing.

But the image [of the elephants] reminds me of a lesson in psychology. (I do hope you don’t mind me tracing my thoughts backward.) The lesson, or the story, is that a baby elephant being trained would be shackled and chained to a stake set in the ground. Being a baby, he wouldn’t have the strength to pull it out and this he quickly learned (elephants are smart). As the animal grew, it became settled to the fact that it could not break free of its chain. Then, by the time the creature was full grown — and well beyond reaching strength to pull a mere stake from the ground — it stopped fighting its chains, thoroughly trained and nigh aware it could break free upon a whim (but elephants aren’t that smart).

Arise, shine, for thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. — Isaiah 60:1

And something is coming back to me… Something about elephants with shackles on their ankles who don’t realize they could be free.

(P.S. Is it coincidence that the verses quoted on the pages of this entry are applicable to this entry’s content?)


Ponder with me, friends! Leave a comment below. 🙂

Temptation Gone Wrong: When Hooks Turn Into Lines

A few weeks ago I bumped into a local author at a coffee shop. He had just come out of a workshop about book marketing when I saw him. He was pumped from the workshop and really excited about his novel and the prospect of re-introducing it to the world with and to fresh eyes.

As some background, this author’s book had been written and released years ago. With a day job as a full-time professional, he poured much of his own knowledge into writing it and willingly admitted he was on his umpteenth edit. The newest release was complete with a fresh title. (I can barely imagine finishing my novel, much less finishing it several times over, so kudos to this guy!) He was full of the kind of energy and ambition that radiates out and rubs off, and it wasn’t but a few seconds before I was glowing too.

But my excitement quickly waned. Why, you ask?

Because as we talked, I got around to asking him a very pointed question, a question that should be easy for any writer to quickly answer:

What’s your hook?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He grinned. My chest fluttered with anticipation. Oh, this’ll be good! I thought. I was sure he was ready with an answer, having just come out of his marketing workshop, and sat, seat-perched and ears perked, for what would surely be his brilliant reply.

I was disappointed.

What should have been a one or two sentence snapshot turned into a several minute summary of the entire plot.

What happened? Did I phrase the question incorrectly? Certainly I must have miscommunicated. Certainly this author knew what a hook was and its importance to the marketing of his work, to the accumulation of his audience, to the selling success of his novel.

But, after a few more minutes of talking, it dawned on me:

He had no hook!

After years of writing, editing, and rewriting, he didn’t have a grasp on the very essence of his novel. He didn’t know what should be driving people to buy and read his book. All he knew was that he’d put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the project and was desperate to make it sell. This time.

He was having a hard time capturing an audience because he had no hook, no dangling bait to tempt readers.

Where he ought to have had a strong, sharp synopsis baited with intrigue, this author, instead, wiggled before me a thin, transparent line that went… somewhere. But it was too long to follow. I became bored.

It was a weak sale.typing

It’s likely people will never know where that line leads–maybe somewhere insightful, interesting, even life-changing, but they’ll never know because they’ll pass by that flimsy-looking, hookless, baitless line without a second thought.

The lesson:

If you’re fishing for an audience, have a hook.

A hook is an impactful few words that pull a reader into wanting to know more.

For example, a hook could be “A clairvoyant woman returns to her hometown to hunt down her best friend’s killer” (Nora Roberts, Carolina Moon), or “A young heiress is pulled into a complex neighborhood scandal after her fiance mysteriously deserts her, leading her on a wild goose chase for love and a long lost treasure” (Jessica Woken, Pebbles in a Stream).

This synopsis is so important to the marketing of a book–YOUR book–that you need to spend a good amount of time and effort creating it and memorizing it.

Have it ready. Don’t hem and haw when someone asks you what your book is about–be prepared to throw that hook out there at a moment’s notice, the instant you think there might be a bite, the moment you detect a reader hungry for something new to digest!

Competition is tough. In the writing world, there’s no time to waste dangling useless lines in front of potential readers’ faces. Hook them, and do it quickly, before they swim away.

Go fishing!

Minutes after my conversation with the author, I forgot what the title of the his book was. I didn’t mean to–in fact, I repeated it a couple times to myself to help my brain remember. It didn’t work. A day later, I couldn’t tell you the author’s name. Truly, I forgot most of what he told me about the story. I vaguely remember it being a historical fiction, something about a Native American Tribesman and some trouble he gets into, but that’s as much as I recall.

And, aside from referring to it to write this blog, I’ll probably never think of it again. I highly doubt I’d ever buy a copy, which is really too bad because I’m sure it’s a good story. But I simply wasn’t tempted by the author to figure out just how good. There was just no hook.

typewriter-1240422If you’re a writer with a book or who’s in the process of writing one, prepare a hook NOW. Especially in the few months leading up to the release of the title it’s important to sell and resell and sell some more; build an audience that is so interested they’ll bookmark it in their Amazon accounts, join your author mailing list, or even (Heavens, yes!) PRE-ORDER a copy! Pre-ordering is author gold.

Need help coming up with a good hook? Try these

4 Ideas to Help You Create a Good Hook

  1. Ask beta readers you’ve worked with to write a paragraph synopsis of their own, then pull little gems of awesome from what they’ve written to create a solid 1-2 sentence hook.
  2. Consult with writer’s groups (there are plenty of communities on LinkedIn, if you want to stay anonymous) to get ideas on how to best summarize your plot.
  3. Make it a Facebook contest. Offer up a handful of different hooks and ask people to vote on which they think is most effective. Raffle off a free copy of your book as a prize to participants.
  4. Think like a film director. Sometimes writing a hook is difficult because we keep thinking in author’s terms. That is: We’re naturally wordy (reference the author mentioned at the start of this blog) and often “over write.” Instead, think of your book as a movie and your hook as the preview. What scenes would you choose to highlight the story? Take those, condense them into as few words as possible. THAT’S your hook!

 

Good luck, and #HappyWriting!

8 Things to Consider Before Buying a Pet Easter Bunny

Easter is just around the corner (March 27) and it’s about this time that many young children are spontaneously gifted with their own special pet Easter bunny.

Even child-free adults may be tempted into taking a fluffy, teacup-sized rabbit home for themselves. After all, little bunnies are ever so adorable, and they’re found cheaply and abundantly around this spring holiday.

But, as a lifelong bunny owner, I can tell you:

Rabbits are NOT “easy” pets.

My two sisters and I were given kits (i.e. baby rabbits) by our parents after spotting a “baby bunnies $5 each” sign while we were driving home from a family cherry-picking adventure in Southern California. We selected a couple kits — one black, one white with black eye “makeup” — and eagerly took them home.

a bunny pair

A pair similar to Blackie and Jasmine. Image (C)2012 Maja Dumat

We named them Blackie (duh), who was a male (we didn’t know), and Jasmine, a female (we didn’t know!), named after the heroine from Disney’s Aladdin who donned masses of dark kohl around her own eyes. Many months later, we were surprised to find a brand new brood of tiny kits nursing at the belly of our beloved Jasmine. (We. Didn’t. Know.)

It was the start of our family being a “Bunny Family.”

We were able to find homes for our surprise kits — except for one rambunctious little guy, who we kept and named Cookie — but learned a tragic lesson when we found out that two of the bunnies we’d adopted out to a family friend had died: They’d been kept out on a concrete pad in a backyard, in winter, with no carpet to sit on to lift their feet off the chill ground, no box to huddle in to shield them from the wind or elements. Nothing except one another and two depressing ceramic bowls: one for pellets, one for water.

Simply, the rabbits had frozen to death.

It was owner negligence, pure and simple. Needless to say, our relationship with that family was seriously altered.

Almost twenty years later, I still get mad about that incident. I still remember the name of the girl who’d so desperately wanted two bunnies of her own, and then tossed them on a concrete slab and quickly became disinterested in them.

This same thing happens with so many rabbits every year, especially post-Easter: A child wants a cute bunny (or two) to cuddle, doesn’t understand the responsibility involved, and the rabbit dies.

It’s awful. PERIOD.

Lucky for us, rabbits were nothing new to my parents, so we weren’t in for a shock about the level of care such farm-type pets involved. Pre-motherhood, my mom kept a white bunny with a rhinestone collar which she carried around like a little kitten. The doe was so gentle and docile many people assumed the furry creature coddled in my mother’s arms was in fact a cat… until my mom lifted her hand to reveal her pet’s giant ears!

From their experience, my parents knew bunnies weren’t animals that could be kept “out of sight and out of mind” in a cage. These creatures, while hardy, required daily attention, a varied diet, space to run, and considerable dedication.

In light of that, here are my

8 Things to Consider Before Buying a Pet Easter Bunny

#1. Bunnies aren’t hamsters.

I’ve had hamsters. Okay, I’ve had a lot of non-dog or -cat pets, but hamsters in particular are what come to mind when people describe to me what they assume about keeping rabbits. Essentially, that they’re rodents kept in wire cages which display zero personality and require little care. That is, they’re “easy” pets to keep.

WRONG.

Rabbits aren’t hamsters. First, they aren’t even rodents. Second, they will not be satisfied cooped up in a cage all day long, every day of their life. A life which, by the way, can span 10+ years.

Hamsters are rodents similar to gophers. They love to hide themselves in their tunnels and hoard their food in their burrows. Therefore, hamsters don’t mind so much being caged all day as long as they have something to dig in (bedding), something to run on to get rid of their energy (a wheel), and lots of food to stuff in their cheek pouches and store away (treats).

Rabbits are NOT like gophers. They don’t store food away and so, like deer, desire to graze. They like (need!) to wander, explore, leap, jump, and then go to their warrens (their home, ie hutch) to sleep, hide, and relax.

Because rabbits need to do these things, a lot of thought is required when planning their living environment. Again: they aren’t easy.

#2. Bunnies are prey animals…

As prey animals, they require a different approach than predator pets (that is, dogs and cats). They’re naturally more jumpy, skittish, and will perceive dog and cat social activities (e.g. playing chase, belly rubs, etc) as threatening rather than playful and loving.

Humans naturally act like predators, which is why we get along so well with predatory pets like dogs and cats. So, if you cannot get on a bunny’s level and think like a prey animal, then you’ll be hard-pressed to ever enjoy a rabbit as a pet. You will forever be its enemy, and your pet rabbit will never, EVER like you; it will bite, kick, and fight, because it thinks YOU are DANGEROUS.

Thus, the bad rap bunnies get from people who don’t know how to handle them and are, as a result, kicked, scratched, and bitten by these otherwise docile creatures.

#3. …but bunnies aren’t stupid.

Again, prey animals — especially the small variety — are often equated with stupidity. Rabbits are, however, pretty darn smart given their small stature. Smart enough to know their names, understand commands (mine have been trained to run back into their hutch when I clap), walk on a leash, be litter box trained, and even be taught to competitively jump.

Yes, I’d almost say some rabbits are smarter than the average cat. (Take that, cats!)

#4. Bunnies are meant to dig, run, jump, and chew.

Look at their anatomy and biology and you’ll begin to understand what a pet bunny will require of you. Better yet, observe their wild cousins, like the cottontail rabbit.

For starters, consider their…

  • Large back legs = LOTS of running and jumping space. Woo hoo!
  • Big ears = relative quiet, no abrupt or loud noises, but they do like some noise stimulation. (Think toys with bells, cat tunnels that crinkle, paper to tear, or soft background music.)
  • Fluffy feet bottoms = good ground, like carpet or dirt, they can walk, run, and jump on without fear of slipping. (Think of them as wearing permanent socks that can slip on smooth tile or wood surfaces.)
  • Big, ever-growing teeth = lots of chew toys. LOTS.
  • A curious, social mind = toys to stimulate, room to roam, places to explore, and playtime with other bunnies (or their human!) for social engagement.
  • Prey animals = safe hiding place, like a box or cat tunnel, to go to when they’re feeling scared or just want to chillax, unobserved.
Einstein-in-a-tunnel

Einstein playing in a cat tunnel filled with newspaper.

These qualities definitely don’t fit the easy, in-a-cage-all-day, personality-free image pet bunnies commonly endure. Therefore, plan accordingly!

#5. Bunnies require training. And patience.

Especially if your pet bunny is destined to a life indoors, you will have to spend some time associating with and training your bunny on the dos and don’ts of its new environment. There will undoubtedly be trouble in the early stages, like missing the litter box, forgetting a lesson, or going into a room it should not, but with persistence a bunny will learn its limits.

Whiskey Bandit Bunny_carpet house

Whiskey perched atop her carpet house, circa 2011.

After getting my first house bunny, Whiskey, a black otter-colored mini Rex, when she was only a few months old, it took a while for her to become socialized and not kick and fight when I wanted to touch or hold her. Until I took her home, she’d been living in a barn at a breeder’s in a wire cage stacked on top of other wire cages, with hundreds of other rabbits and almost no human contact. She considered humans mean and dangerous and, I can say from personal observation, her breeder was not very gentle in handling her!

 

It took patience for me to help Whiskey understand what she was and wasn’t to do. I taught her that people were not a threat; to go back home (to her hutch) when I clapped my hands; to use the litter box(es) for doing her business and not just any corner of the house she pleased; and that certain areas/rooms were off limits.

Granted, I still have to gate off certain places (like that oh-so-tempting, dark area behind the computer desk riddled with tasty “roots” (i.e. cords) to chew through) and her defying personality, similar to that of a feisty teenager, eggs her into trouble (like when she sticks her head into the laundry room and I catch her and say her name, and she immediately hurries out as if to say, “What? I wasn’t doing anything,” followed by a playful binky, a sign of pure bunny glee, to express her joy at the game). Even with her bad habits, she is actually well-trained. The same goes for her companion rabbit, Einstein, a white Lionhead who was found by a pet store clerk in a field in early summer 2012, likely abandoned there by the family who’d owned him because he’d outgrown his cute Easter egg-sized phase.

Ahh, a bunny binky never felt so good.

Bunnies require no less dedication than puppies or kittens, whose owners need to train their dog not to chew shoes or bark, or kittens not to scratch furniture or jump on counter tops.

In these ways, a young rabbit is no different in its training needs than a young animal of ANY kind that is destined for life as pet.

#6. YOU need to be responsible.

This is basically a reiteration of #5, but is important enough that it deems another mention.

Bunnies are not an easy, low-care pet. Only get one if you are ready and willing to put in the attention, effort, and responsibility they require. Again, no different than any other pet.

If you can’t do that, don’t get one. But, if you’re up to the task, you’ll love experiencing the joy and reward of being a rabbit parent.

#7. Bunnies are “exotic.”

And, therefore, require special veterinary needs. Rabbits are considered exotic pets and only a veterinarian trained in understanding and tending to the special needs of rabbits will know what to do for them.

Exotic vets can be tough to find (I have to drive almost an hour to get to mine in Burnsville, MN) and sometimes their services are bought at a premium, but, considering bunnies don’t need annual shots and vaccines like dogs and cats, the cost of their veterinary care is relatively equal.

#8. Bunnies are like ANY OTHER PET.

(Have I said this enough?)

Don’t be deterred by how much a bunny differs from the dogs and cats. All require dedication, time, money, and understanding. For any pet, including bunnies, take time to get to know what their needs will be BEFORE you bring them into your home.

Similarities between cats and rabbits.

Compare Me Not, from the Le Mieux comic strip. (c) 2015 Jessica Woken

I love the mission behind Make Mine Chocolate, who insist Easter Bunnies should be delicious chocolate instead of furry, adorable little creatures taken up on a whim.

However, if you’ve thought long and hard about acquiring your own lagomorph (aka rabbit), you’ll really LOVE having a bunny. They make for intelligent, playful, and rewarding pets… if cared for and appreciated properly.

Check out these resources to learn more about rabbits’ needs and care, and #HopOn and #HappyEaster!

Be honest: What do you say about you?

So, I got caught by one of those annoying Facebook quizzes. This one in particular inquired if it could guess my age and gender via my answers to ten questions.

The questions were generally pretty silly, ranging from what would you do in a technology emergency to asking if you’re a dog person or a cat person.

But the one that stopped me, got me thinking, asked, “What do other people say about you?”

Here’s the (semi) screenshot:

what-do-other-people-say-about-you

I don’t know why this question bothered me. I actually stared at it for a good minute or more before answering and moving on. I went down the list, wondering if I would say those things about myself if I were, you know, NOT myself.

“Am I always willing to help others? No. Sometimes I’m pretty darn selfish and I go out of my way not to help. Not that one…”

“Am I ambitious? Sometimes, but, then, I can’t be that ambitious. I am taking a Facebook quiz, after all…”

“Am I smart? Okay. I could do that. Not, you know, super smart, but I get by. But what kind of smart? Like, street smart or book smart? How many kinds of smart are there? This question needs to be more specific.”

“Am I open-minded? I think so, but would people say that about me? I mean, I’m pretty open-minded in my mind, but does that show outwardly? Maybe I’m close-minded and I just think I’m open-minded. Maybe being open-minded is a very close-minded thing to think about myself. What does an open-minded person look like from the outside?”

“Am I loyal? Sure, okay. I qualify, but I’m no saint, let’s get real. What does loyalty entail: complete honesty, acceptance, never questioning relationship choices made? So if I lie to a friend, I’m being disloyal; I’ve lied to friends. If I don’t accept something about someone, if I get mad at something about them I don’t like instead of accepting how and who they are, that’s basically rejecting them. That’s disloyal, too. And if I get in an uber bad argument with a friend and internally question whether or not we should be friends anymore, even if I don’t say anything… is that disloyal? I don’t think I’m, like, dog-level loyal. Maybe cat-level. Where’s that question? ‘Are you dog- or cat-level loyal?'”

Thus my mind went. I eventually settled on answering that people say I’m smart because I’ve actually been told that before. I figured it was the most fitting.

After finishing the questionnaire and having my age and gender guessed by the all-knowing Facebook quiz, I contemplated the aforementioned question some more. I realized there were two reasons why it bothered me enough to take a screenshot and write a blog about it:

1. I’m not good with receiving compliments

My first instinct is to throw their compliment back at them, as if we’re playing a game of hot potato and I don’t want to be stuck with it.

Sure, I like compliments. Sometimes I even fish for them, they’re so decadent. Rare is the person who doesn’t like being complimented. But liking them and receiving them are two different things.

I enjoy the accolade as much as the next person, but I’m awful in person when someone issues a compliment. My first instinct is to throw it back at them, as if we’re playing a game of hot potato and I don’t want to be stuck with it.

I’ve been working hard on fixing this TERRIBLE — yes, terrible — habit of mine, wishing it will die a quick and painful death. Ungraciously accepting a compliment is like an emotional slap in the face to the person dishing it out: They’ve gone out of their way to say something nice about you and here you are throwing it back at them, as if you don’t want it.

LESSON:

Don’t tailgate someone’s compliment of you with one of your own of them. That’s annoying  and relationship cancer. If the Fashion Police had a cousin institution called the Rude Police, they’d be pulling you over and issuing you a hefty fine for your rudeness. Just say “thank you” and move on.

2. I have a hard time admitting I’m genuinely great.

I’m pretty darn awesome but I’m also a broken person with lots of uncertainties floating about.

All those things listed in the questionnaire that anonymous people could have said about me made me uncomfortable because, even though I pump myself up, say “I’m awesome!” (and sometimes even mean it a little), and go about my day like I’m rockin’ it, that doesn’t mean I would eagerly latch onto these nice things someone might say about me with unconditional fervor. There are undoubtedly conditions.

As you can see from my train of thought above, a lot of questions come up about morality, loyalty, what it means to be smart, ambitious, open-minded. The load of questions I piled on myself over this simple inquiry of “What do other people say about you?” just pointed to the fact that I think I’m pretty darn awesome BUT that I’m also a broken person with lots of uncertainties floating about. And I can guarantee that even the most big-headed, confident-appearing, egotistical person out there is really just hiding their brokenness behind that facade.

But, don’t get huffy. I’m not downsizing myself here, either. Yes, I think I’m helpful, ambitious, smart, loyal, open-minded, and admitting all those things makes me neither egotistical nor perfect. It means I love myself, and I think I’m pretty darn cool.

LESSON:

It’s okay–even encouraged!–to compliment yourself, but maintain your humility and your humanity. It isn’t wrong to think you’re genuinely awesome, but remember everyone is broken, uncertain, and that there are a lot of grey areas within your awesomeness. And that’s perfectly acceptable.

So, in closing, I’m switching the question around. Not “what do other people say about you”, because that’s vague (“Who is the ‘other people’ and why are they talking about me?”), but

What do YOU say about you?

Think on that one, why don’cha.


P.S. In case you’re wondering, the quiz guessed that I am a 73-year-old woman. At least it didn’t think I was a man.