It's About the Brains

If I ever do a course on how to be self-employed  I think I’m going to make it a rule that people have to exercise regularly to be allowed to take it.

No, stop looking at me like that.  I don’t mean the 1984 style physical jerks.  I mean for whatever level of fitness that you have at the moment.  Might mean a half hour shuffle around the  block or a 5K run. (My faithful readers should be aware that I’m closer to that shuffle around the block than a 5K run!)

I’m writing this after having worked out and finished my quota for my contract work today. No, I’m not done for the day.  I don’t spend all my time on contract work.   Gotta do marketing, too, ya know.


The reason I mention exercise is that I’m finding that if I’m up and have worked out early in the morning, my brain is in gear to the point where writing just flows, even when it’s not my favorite topic in the world to be working on.  The quality of the writing is superior and I don’t get that “pulling teeth” sensation that hits me if I put off writing till the afternoon, try to write without having worked out, or try to write at night.

This is not to say that I think people should necessarily be morning people.  If a workout in the afternoon and working all night is where your brain is on fire and sharpest, I think it’s fine to go with that. I do think there’s a great benefit in treating the exercise as non-negotiable.

I’m not saying that one has to be a hotshot athlete, either.  There are pics of me in this blog.  I’m hardly a model of physical fitness.   My true asset is my brain.  If exercise did not help me think better, I assure you I would not bother.  I am saying that regularly getting all sweaty and red in the face does have great benefits for how well you think.  Screw the other stuff.  Clearing the pathways in the brain is important.

Yes, yes, yes, the human body is an integrated system.  That’s rather the point.

Turnip Wagon

I sometimes wonder if I should preface ScrewSkinny with:  “I wrote most of this in the pool.”

I find myself thinking a lot about health, fitness, body image and what have you when I’m swimming.  I used to listen to audiobooks, but I can’t find waterproof earphones that last more than a few months.  My inner Scrooge screams at buying them all that often, and I’ve never found any you didn’t have to futz with a lot to get them to work.  I’m in the pool to swim, not play with electronics.  That’s my other job <grin>.

Speaking of which, my suit really has Gone Where All Good Suits Go, and I need to get off my lazy butt and get a couple of swimsuits.  God, I can’t believe I put this off until early June – the worst time in the world to get value for your buck on a good, chlorine-resistant suit!  Well, I brought that all on myself.  Speedo has nothing in my size on sale right now, dammit.  I’m checking out the Junonia suits and grinding my teeth.  No, I don’t want a swimsuit that’s bloody shorts or a skirt.  I don’t want something with cute folds and drapes to disguise body shape and increase drag.  My body shape is drag enough, thanks so much! Yes, I know.  Women my size who care about such things are not in the majority.  I expect plenty of women my size don’t wanna put on a suit at all.

Been checking out some of the freelance boards and I’m seeing a lot of what I call Turnip Wagon Projects[1].  These are projects where a buyer wants you to submit a “sample article” that’s never appeared in print or on the ‘net before.  This sample article will almost always be as long as and in a similar subject matter to the actual one you’re bidding on.  Yes, the person is trying to get free work out of you.  If they’re looking for a real writer, what they really want are samples of your professional work. You know, stuff you’ve already written and probably sold.  The Turnip Wagon sort?  Sure, there are ways to fix their little red wagons if you’re willing to go to the trouble to do so.  And yeah, calling them on their theft would probably benefit the world.  I just don’t bid on ‘em.  Lazy, I know.  But as Holly Lisle put its, “Writers get paid to write.”  I bid on the ones who don’t seem to want free work.  I tend to have more success that way.

[1] My father’s expression for “I wasn’t born yesterday” is “I didn’t just fall off the turnip wagon, you know.”  I have no idea where he got that.  Probably his mother.  She wasn’t often creative of speech, but could get real pithy on occasion.

I'll Pass

I’m always checking out online work boards to see what I can find.

I signed up with oDesk (nope, not providing a link. If you’re that interested, Google will get to it just fine).

I asked them to remove me just as quickly after I downloaded the software and did a tour.

The company was trying to solve the problem of trust between an unknown remote worker and employer. Is this a serious issue? You betcha. You hear all those “Work in your underwear” stories and if you’re hiring someone, you will wonder whether or not that slacker with his laptop is working or not. I’m not arguing that it’s an issue.

One solution is to pay by the job. (i.e. “I’m taking bids on a 50 page e-book on the mating habits of hummingbirds. I’ll need it in three weeks after the contract is accepted. What do you bid?”)

That’s the way I usually work. I get a contract, say how long it’ll take me to do it, then deliver it by the deadline. After that, it’s up to me to make it work. If I don’t make it work, I get a bad review. I like this approach.

However, working to the job doesn’t really work out with everything. Sometimes an hourly rate seems like the better option. Then, trust becomes a serious issue. You don’t want to pay for slacking.

If you’re going to hire a telecommuter, a good way to handle it is to hire someone you know and trust. You know they’re not going to screw around. They’ll work the hours they claimed, you can see they put out a lot of good product, and it’s all hunky-dory[1].

What if you wanna outsource and you’re hiring a stranger?

oDesk’s option is… well, there’s no other way to put it, you might as well be working in a cube farm. If you get work through them, you’ll be getting a video camera to be trained on you while you work. No kidding! You download the company’s software, which takes a screenshot every ten minutes while you’re working, and logs mouse clicks and keystrokes. Friends, I’ve never had an office job with that level of monitoring, and I worked briefly for the Department of State! It seems to me that this is all the drawbacks of a “real job” (constant monitoring, stress) with none of the advantages (regular paycheck, benefits such as insurance, paid sick leave, etc.).

Why would you want the insecurity of going freelance if you’re not going to get the benefits?

Addendum:  Apparently there are buyers who don’t like it all that much, either.

There’s no point in outsourcing if you have to babysit your coders on the progress every step of the way (which would be how you would prevent bleeding too much money via oDesk).

[1] My father does this. But he’s been in his field 40 years and has a pretty solid rep.