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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

On Changes, Opportunities, and Optimism

Today is my first day back from a short, but very much needed break from work. Every so often, I need that -- not a vacation that necessarily involves going anywhere, but a good week or so where I don't do any copywriting or work-related tasks whatsoever. I didn't plan it that way, but the six days I took sort of turned into a six-day break from writing period, but sometimes that's just as positive. My writing is only valuable or expressive in the ways I'd like it to be if I'm really into it.

That said, I like to take stock of how I run my business every so often so I can determine whether or not it's time to make any changes -- changes that might raise my level of personal satisfaction with what I do, changes that might boost my earning potential or help me grow my business in other ways. Recently, I've decided it's time to make a few more of those changes, especially in light of how beneficial my last round of changes turned out to be.

One of the catalysts was the way the lay of the land has been changing in regards to the primary freelance board I used to use for making contact with new clients and exploring new projects -- Elance. Both Elance and oDesk (which I never really used much) were absorbed by this company called Upwork sometime last year. At first, I was just like "whatever, one interface is probably pretty much the same as another", so my plan was to eventually just use Upwork the same way I used to use Elance. It didn't take long for me to get where I wasn't so keen on that idea anymore.

The problem is I fucking hate Upwork. Seriously, I hate everything about it and I personally wouldn't recommend it to any other freelancer. To begin with, I don't like anything about the interface or the way projects are handled on there. It's clunky, inconvenient, and difficult to keep organized. It's also expensive. Upwork takes a very large chunk out of your earnings in user fees and I hear there are plans in the works to make that chunk even larger within the next month or so. That does not sit well with me at all.

They also take forever to release your earnings to you. On Elance, once the client released the funds attached to a given milestone, you could withdraw that money into your Paypal account pretty much immediately and have instant access to it within a day or so. That made it a great option for picking up extra projects if you needed fast money to cover an unforeseen expense or something. Upwork sits on released funds for almost a week before you can even make the withdrawal. If the timing isn't so hot as far as when the funds were released by the client in the first place, you could be left waiting two or three weeks for access to the fucking money you earned. That doesn't work for me for obvious reasons and I doubt it would work for other freelancers either. Not everyone is freelancing for fun or for side cash. For many of us, this is our living and we count on the money we earn.

As for the icing on the cake, Upwork is quite overzealous about policing users and they expect to control every little thing about how you maintain your profile and handle yourself on the site. For one thing, they don't allow you to use pseudonyms there. They also reserve the right to descend on users at any moment, ask to see ID, and demand that the user in question submit sensitive personal information to verify their identities. You don't even have to be doing anything wrong or misusing the site in any way. They do it to everyone and they do it often. It feels exactly like being pulled over and questioned by a cop for no good reason. I've never had a freelance interface demand that sort of thing of the users. Identity verification was always recommended in order to put the minds of potential clients at ease, but ultimately optional. My privacy is important to me, so... no.

Collectively, all of those things made me uncomfortable with trusting my business and my livelihood to Upwork in any capacity going forward. I'm not currently looking for new clients at the moment, nor do I take on new commitments very often, but I wanted to make sure I had someplace to go that I trust the next time I want to do that. That spurred some research into other interfaces that sounded promising. (I found a few that I think will work as well as Elance used to.) Along the way, I also stumbled across some resources and whatnot for creative writers looking into serious publishing opportunities, other work options that I hadn't quite considered before, and so forth. Now I'm kind of on fire about some of those things as far as my professional future goes and I can feel a bit of a renaissance coming on in regards to my writing career.

It just feels like time to make a few changes and pay more attention to some of the exciting new opportunities that seem to be presenting themselves right now. I also feel like God is nudging me strongly in that direction for sure and who the hell am I to say no to God?