Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mathematics of Expertise

Today, I was reading a post over on FreelanceFolder on The Mathematics of Freelancing. Laura Spencer was talking about what I refer to as "critical mass equations"---those times when in order to make the happy buck, one has to send off a ton of stuff. Spencer was also talking about good bookkeeping practices---something that a lot of freelancers seem to ignore.

To the examples that she mentioned, I would also add "mathematics of expertise." This is how to figure out when it is cheaper to pick up the phone and call an expert in to do a job that you can do yourself.

It is something that I learned from my father. He was a big DIYer (do-it-yourself-er). But every once in awhile, he would pay someone else to do a task for him.

For the record, I am not a big DIYer. I am sort-of a kluntz. There is also the fact that I have no desire to know how to fix my own car---not that I own a car---but all men in my family are supposed to know how to fix one. There are a lot of things that I have no desire to learn how to fix.

For instance, one of my father-in-laws (my wife's biological father) believes that I should invest in some tools and do all the plumbing repairs that homeowners eventually need to do. In his mind, I should not be picking up the phone and calling in a plumber to do the job for me.

I disagree.

There is actually math involved in my reasoning for doing this.

When you add up all the time, it takes me to figure out what DIY book to read, the time it takes me to go to the hardware store, the time it takes me to screw up the first attempt to fix the problem, the time it takes me to figure out what the bloody hell I did wrong (sorry about swearing there), the second trip to the hardware store, plus the time to redo the job and hopefully finally get it right, when you add up all that time and grief, and compare it to the amount that I make as a freelancer, you discover something important.

I almost always lose more income than I saved by doing the job myself.

An actual expert not only can do the job quicker, and get it actually done right, than I; but they can do it for a cheaper price than the amount of income I would lose if I attempted to do the job myself.

For me, that is something inportant to know. After all, in my family, men are supposed to do all the repairs and never call in an expert to do it for them.

And as a freelancer, the logic extends to editing, advertising, etc.

Honestly, I would rather pay the experts to do their job while I focus on the area of my expertise. And that is why I will never be considered a "real man" by my father-in-law.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How taking photographs is like writing

Ankh stamped offering bowl

Ankh stamped black and white offering bowl and chalice

Inside rim of ankh stamped black and white chalice
One of the things that I have noticed while taking photos for Celtic Soul Jewelry and Pottery is that photography reminds me a heck of a lot of writing.

You start off with a plan of what pictures you want to create.

You take a lot of shots.

Then you edit what you have done.

Sometimes you have done nothing more than waste your time. Other times, you discover that pieces look much better than you expected.

Outside of the equipment being different, writing is much the same---outlines, rough drafts, and editing. Sometimes it is bad writing; sometimes it is wonderful.

Maybe it is just me who feels this way. Maybe the two fields are nothing alike.

[The pictures used in this post are of pottery that is currently available at SpiritWays, 3301 E. Colfax, Denver Colorado.]

Sunday, August 21, 2011

End of summer

Handmade Robin Egg Blue Triple Spiral Star Pendant
Tomorrow is the first day of the semester, which means that today is the last day of my summer vacation. So what did I get accomplished this summer? Well, I took a lot of jewelry photos for my wife's business, Celtic Soul Jewelry and Pottery. And that is pretty much what I accomplished all summer.

I got very little writing done. I did set up a couple of new blogs---one for my wife (though I am going to be doing all the posting), another for a comic strip that I hope to get done...someday.

I made some progress on the two novels that I am currently working on, but not enourgh that I can slap a release date on either one of them. For the past month or so, I have been supposed to be working on a Smashwords test project (actually two of them)...but it keeps getting put on the backburner.

In fact, I would say that my own business had been on the backburner all summer. For some reason, I choose to place my wife's new business ahead of my own. I am sure that my friends will have their theories about why I did that---most of the theories will involve mental illness.

Speaking of mental illness, somehow I managed to avoid a really bad depression this summer despite the fact that I am no better off this summer than I had been during the previous summers. (Actually, I was probably worse off this summer---but I am afraid to look at the paperwork that would confirm that theory. I find that the lack of money in my bank accounts depressing.)

So tomorrow is the state of the Fall semester. I would promise myself to do better this coming term...but I have a whole table covered with books I have to read for my literature classes, so I am not going to be holding my breath on that front.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

QoD Stephen King on Vampires

"Here's what vampires shouldn't be: pallid detectives who drink Bloody Marys and only work at night; lovelorn southern gentlemen; anorexic teenage girls; boy-toys with big dewy eyes.

"What should they be?

"Killers, honey. Stone killers who never get enourgh of that tasty Type-A. Bad boys and girls. Hunters. In other words, Midnight America. Red, white and blue, accent on the red. Those vamps got hijacked by a lot of soft-focus romance."

---Stephen King, in the introduction of American Vampire (Scott Snyder {writer} and Rafael Albuquerque {artist}) comic book series collection.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Such a descriptive program name

Sometimes, I wonder who comes up with the names for various computer programs. For instance, last night when I was updating the dino-computer (something I have to do because my wife knows nothing about updating any of the computers), I was looking though the list of Windows updates that were being installed.

There were the numerous security updates (which for some reason makes me question the overall security of Microsoft products), the Malicious Software Removal Tool update (a tool I have only used once and hope never to have to use ever again), and the Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 Junk Mail Filter update (I have never actually used Outlook ever---or at least, I don't think I have).

But the update that got my attention was Rollup for ActiveX Killbits for Windows (version does not matter---three computers, three different versions were updated by the time I was done).

What is Rollup? (It sounds like something that we used to do with the sidewalks in Brush Colorado...too harsh on a simple small town?)

What is ActiveX? (Is that better than ActiveW?)

And what is Killbits? (Is there a guy out there by the name of Bits who needs to be killed? Will Uma Thurman succeed? Do they have a kid?)

I am not sure what Killbits is, but I really like the sound of the program name. Don't mess with me; I am armed with Killbits.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Been taking photos for a long time

A happy little cauldron of mint.

While digging though the photos on the computer today, looking for a photo for Celtic Soul Jewelry and Pottery, I realized that I have been taking pottery pictures off and on for six years now. Some of the older pictures I am still proud of (hey, I still think that they still look pretty good). For instance, this photo from September 2008. It is a picture of one of the cauldrons that my wife throws on the wife; the mint that I put in it is from my own herb garden (I think it was spearmint).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

This is a cat, not a shark

There are times I look around the internet and wonder if real live human beings ever double-check what their automated programs are doing. For instance, take the front page of Helium today.

What is wrong with this picture?
 Everyday, Helium has a list of articles featured on their front page, and each article has a little picture above it. Now sometimes these pictures seem to have nothing to do with the articles that they are illustrating. Can you spot today's howler?

Did you spot the picture that seems to have nothing to do with the article it is associated with?

Seriously, a computer program has to be doing this, right? Or some employee with a strange sense of humor laughing to themselves. Because not a day goes by that I do not look at the list of articles and their associated pictures and wonder in what galaxy some of these choices make the slightest bit of sense.

Let me be clear.

This is a cat, not a shark.

The only thing that cats and sharks have in common is that they are animals. We can't even claim that they are both predators; one of my cats would strave to death if he had to catch his own dinner. And kitty is very unhappy when you toss them into the ocean...which may make dangerous to try to put them in it.

I guess that it is a good thing that the little search engine spiders cannot see pictures...because I think they would take points off your SEO score if they could.

Monday, August 1, 2011

You are responsible for your own success

There are times I do not understand how other people run their businesses. Saturday was one of those days. I probably should not be surprised by that fact.

Saturday, I was helping my wife at one of the local Denver craftshows.

Now, my day started off with a screaming migraine. So I will admit that after helping set up the booth, I sneaked off and took a nap (in the hot car---it was either do that or pass out in the back of the booth---I thought that the car would be a better business decision, at least appearance-wise). In my defense, I would like to state that it is my wife's business, and she was present---I was merely a glorified pack-mule (unpaid employee) the day of the show.

But when I came back, I helped. In other words, I sat in the booth and said hello to everyone that walked by the front of the booth. It is something that I learned to do when running a restaurant in a food court. The goal is to get them to look at your place of business.

My wife did her tour of the other booths. When she returned, I did my lap around the craftshow. In my case, I was fishing for information. Professional hazard, I am afraid; my true profession is generally nosy. Even when we have no vested interest at all in the subject of study.

In the case of several vendors, I was surprised that they were merely sitting in the back of their booths, and not saying hi to anyone. Often the state of the handmade craft product in question matched the care that the customer was greeted with.

The general impression I got was that several of the vendors were of the impression that it was not worth their effort. Call it a dissatisfaction with the venue. Now, I will admit that I would have liked to see more foot traffic. At the beginning of the show, I guessed that this was the first show. I was wrong. It was the second show...except that the first one had been forced into one of the buildings because of the weather---that sorta makes my guess right, doesn't it?

But to treat the few people that did walk though the craftshow in such a manner was...quite honestly, the business manager in me was appalled.

I was even more appalled at the end of the show. Now, I do not mean to easedrop...well, I am a writer and a comedic blogger...hey, it is not wrong to easedrop when it is part of the nature of your profession to easedrop. *sticks out tongue*

Several vendors were upset. Annoyed that enourgh advertising hadn't been done. Annoyed that we were competiting with another event (don't all craftshows happen the same day as other events?). Generally annoyed.

But here is the part where I do not understand their business plan. Turns out a couple of the complainers did not do any advertising of their own. Say what?!

I will admit that my own advertising of the event was not the world's best, but at least me and my wife made an effort. Flawed advertising still is better than no advertising at all. And the only person that you can be sure is going to advertise your business warmly is yourself.

But these people would rather place the blame solely on the event's organizer. I am sorry; but if you do not advertise your own business, you have to assume some of the blame for your failure.

Now, I am quite sure that these merchants would insist that I am wrong about this. After all, I am just a freelance writer, artist, photographer, and someone who spent ten years running a restaurant---I don't know anything about running their type of business. After all, writers have agents and publishing houses backing their moves---if only that was true even in the good old days. And artists and photographers are never good at running businesses---tell that to the professional photographer who is using the show to advertise her regular bread and butter work. And restaurant management does not translate into being able to sell crafts---hmmm, yeah, selling many little items to make the overhead for the day is nothing like what happens at the craftshows. (Did I miss any objectations to me having an opinion?)

I am sorry. Just because you paid a fee to be at a show does not mean that you are not responsible for your own advertising. If it is the typical show, a lot of the money collected is going towards renting the space that the show is taking place in. In fact, there may not be any money left over with the newer and cheaper craftshows.

The sad truth is that you are responsible for doing what is necessary to make your business successful. And when you have a bad business day, you must assume part of the blame...especially if you did nothing to get the attention of potential customers.