Vacations aren’t all they’re cracked up to be

OK. So it hasn’t really been a vacation. Six months “off” sounds like a dream, but that’s only if someone is paying you to sit around and drink margaritas, or tour around some exotic foreign island and blog about it*.

So I’m happy to say that my six month “vacation” is about to end. That contract that was supposed to start in February March April officially starts on Monday. It’s going to be a little weird, keeping a normal day shift pattern, but Hey! I’ll get to practice my social skills. With real people. In person.

* I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed that Tourism Queensland picked someone like Ben Southall for their Job of a Lifetime. I’m sure Ben is a nice guy and all that, but he’s an adventure vacationer already. The Great Barrier Reef is already on the “to do” lists of most travellers like him. You probably don’t need to entice them to come visit. What they should have gone for is an ordinary Joe, someone who would show all of us ordinary, non-adventurous people how much fun it is to visit the islands off the coast of Queensland. I’d’ve eagerly read that person’s stories. Unless Ben is a super witty raconteur, I’ll probably give him a miss. Not that anyone cares, but I thought I would put that out there anyway.


Hot n cold

I feel a little like the subject of Katie Perry’s song:

Cause you’re hot then you’re cold
You’re yes then you’re no
You’re in then you’re out
You’re up then you’re down

Only not for the same reasons, and I’m taking myself on this ride. I think I’d really like to get off now. gives you a free 11-card celtic cross tarot reading on your birthday. After finding out that I wasn’t the chosen provider for that part-time, remote writing gig I’d interviewed for last week (and knowing that the job I was supposed to start in March is still being endlessly postponed), I was feeling a little down today (actually, “a little” would be a severe understatement) so I decided to use the free reading to ask what the heck was going on with the job hunting. It was a surprisingly insightful reading. Procrastination and being too hard on myself figure prominently, along with a few other home truths. One card that was really interesting was the “near future” card, the eight of coins:

Continue to cultivate your mastery and you will reap abundant success.

With the Eight of Coins in this position, you are gearing up to design and render more sophisticated projects. Everything is in place for great success as long as you persevere. Your artistic and intellectual development are evolving in an upward spiral.

Continue to refine your skills. Master your craft, building your reputation and attracting new projects, and you will be richly rewarded. Stay on track.


Freelancing my heart out (or trying to)

The interviews on Monday went pretty well. I’m one of four people being considered — better odds than you’d normally find for a job opening. It’s part-time and it’s remote, but I’d still like to get it — the company seems like a good company and the three people I’ve talked with are very nice, even in the face of my having inadvertently unplugged the power cord for my cordless (and only) phone, resulting in the first of the Monday interviews starting 15 minutes late. (Don’t ask.)

I also have a lead on a couple of small web design jobs. Not huge moneymakers but good resume/portfolio fodder, and leading to an unexpected industry specialization. My sole proprietorship was originally set up many years ago (before I settled on technical writing as my preferred field) as a (somewhat hypothetical) freelance Web design company, but it has turned into a freelance Web design/technical writing/editing/jill-of-all-trades kind of thing. I never envisioned it being what it’s become.

(I’m a bit loopy right now — it’s 05:30 and I’m hopped up on 5-Hour Energy and listening to “Major Tom” on semi-auto repeat. Just spent three hours organizing my Yahoo mail box folders. I have three folders, containing a total of about 40,000 e-mails, left to tackle. Good thing I have unlimited storage. I know that it seems like a symptom of packratitis, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to go back to find an obscure e-mail from several years ago. There’s a method to the madness.)

Breaking into freelancing

The hard part about freelancing is finding the clients. Freelance marketplaces like oDesk,, and eLance can be good sources of freelance jobs if you put in the time and energy to figure them out. Main pro? These marketplaces offer a worldwide pool of jobs where your geographic location is generally not an issue. Main con? You’re competing with a worldwide pool of freelancers, many of who can bid very low because they live in countries where the standard of living is lower than it is here and an hourly wage that is smaller than Canadian minimum wage is still considered lucrative.

Getting hired for posted jobs is a twist on the typical “how do you get experience if no one will hire you” Catch-22 — to be hired, you generally need a reputation within that marketplace as a good worker, but to get that good reputation, you first need to be hired.

I’ve been trying off and on over the last month or so to break into the freelancing world at one of these marketplaces. Unfortunately, even buyers who claim they want native English writers with top writing skills will still sacrifice some (perhaps even a lot of) language quality for a lower bid. (Reminds me of a previous employer who insisted that 80 or 90% accurate was good enough for our user guides — “it’s only words”, after all.) Today, I received an interview invitation for one of the jobs I’d bid on, writing a wiki-based help system. I believe I’ve actually been given the job (I say believe because it still says I’m in interview status, despite the buyer saying we were going ahead with the project). It doesn’t pay a great deal — about $350 CDN — but I knew that going in. The reputation that the successful completion of this job will give me is so much more important in the long run than the money earned. I consider it the same kind of investment as working on that Joomla site I just launched — that was resume fodder, this is reputation fodder.

Good News Fairy on Nicoderm?

I was going to write about how I’d feared that the Good News Fairy had been laid off. (The economy affects everyone, it seems. I’ve heard rumours that the Tooth Fairy has started leaving dental hygiene literature for the kiddies instead of cold, hard cash. Tsk, tsk. Times, they is hard. )

Today, I learned she was just out buying a patch so that she wouldn’t have to keep going out for a smoke when I needed her most. Good on ya, doll. 

The grey area surrounding how EI was going to treat my pension transfer value has finally been resolved, and the news is indeed good. So, I’ll be able to pay my taxes. (Darned self-employment.) And I appear to not owe nearly as much for taxes as I thought I would. So, there’s something left over to pay my bills while I resume job hunting — the job that was supposed to start at the end of the month now may or may not start in mid-April instead, and I no longer have faith that it will materialize in time to be of any use to me. Started actively applying for other jobs today, and things seemed to start shifting into gear in my head after that. (It’s called “getting out of a rut”.)

The Joomla site that I was working on is finished, just ongoing maintenance tweaking and additional content to add over the coming weeks/months. (That’s why I haven’t posted in the last couple of days — been working around the clock, literally, to launch the new site. It was received well, which helps my mood.) I’ve also started to clear some other things that have fallen by the wayside recently. And I get my hair done tomorrow, something that usually makes me feel slightly less old and haggard.

Get a grip

*Still* haven’t gotten the actual contract for the job I’m supposed to be starting on March 30. Seriously? It’s supposed to start in a little over a week and I still feel like I’m being dangled out of a window. The fact that I haven’t gotten the paperwork yet tells me that they’re still waffling about the start date, which ticks me off more than a little. Unfortunately, I seem to have a lost a grip on myself when this whole shillyshallying thing started. I *should* have been actively looking for something else and just taking care of the things I need to take care of, but instead I seem to have slipped back into the arms of clinical depression, which isn’t manifesting itself as sadness but rather is manifesting itself as avoidance and apathy. Sad (or even SAD) depression might be better. I’m getting nothing at all accomplished.

I need to shake it off and get my shit together. I haven’t been outside in the daylight in so long — maybe I just need some natural vitamin D to perk me up. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice so I think I’ll head outside.

The good news fairy takes another smoke break

That job that was supposed to start in mid-March now isn’t going to start until the end of March. Given the comedy of errors that it has been so far, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, in two weeks, I find out that it will be mid-April or later before the damned thing starts. However much I would like to work there again, I can’t afford to be strung along much longer. I know they really want me back, but they don’t seem to be considering that I actually have bills to pay and I can’t hold myself available indefinitely for a job that is feeling more and more ephemeral as the days go by.

So, I’ve avoided telling any of the other agencies that I’m off the market. And I’ve started actually actively looking at job postings again. Got a call this afternoon from another agency about another contract position and I told her to go ahead and send me the details.

Hey, the good news fairy stopped by

on Friday and I found out that I start a new contract (at the place I worked at last year) in three weeks. So, time to finish that Joomla site I’m working on (we’ve set the launch day back a few weeks) and finish decluttering before joining the gainfully employed again, at least for a few months.

One thing this Joomla site is teaching me is that I have a shockingly short attention span, and that I’m really easily bored. *This* is why I can never get my own site redesigns finished (I have one that has been in the works for several years now and I’ve long since gotten sick and tired of the “new” design). You’d think someone with as many OCD issues as I have wouldn’t have that much of a problem with attention sp…oh, look, a shiny thing.

Hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel

But not really expecting any.

I wasn’t able to take part in the demonstrations that took place yesterday on Parliament Hill and at City Hall. I’m sorry more people didn’t turn up but more turned up than I expected —  it’s hard to get to something like that, especially in weather this cold, without, oh, say, public transportation.

Talks are apparently continuing today, though there is still a media blackout on the details. The optimist in me would like to think something will come of that that will end the strike sooner rather than later. But the apathetic realist in me isn’t really holding out a great deal of hope.

It’s weird job hunting, knowing there are jobs I could, should be applying for but can’t because the jobs are too far away to walk (even if I could) and too expensive to cab to. Having a mild panic attack today.

Still waiting

No word yet about that job I interviewed for a couple of weeks ago. I pinged the recruiter who hasn’t heard anything either. I’m getting antsy. Last time, the company took awhile to sort things out. I hope that doesn’t happen this time.

I did hear from another recruiter about another job today, a shorter term contract that would start on Monday. (Actually heard from two agencies about that one.) Pays a little more but is only two months. And it’s downtown, which should be doable by cab, assuming I can get one.

Also pinged Superannuation — they still haven’t received the form they need from my former employer in order to release my transfer amount. So she gave me the name of the person they tried to contact and I’m going to try to light a fire under her myself. Haven’t been able to reach her yet.

I’ve been sick with that bad head cold for the last couple of days. Feeling a fair bit better today so think I will get stuck back into the decluttering tomorrow, starting with the bedroom. (I’d really like to start sleeping there again sometime soon.)