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December 2016 Monthly Income Report

3 min read

In September I made this grand experiment official, “Let’s see how well I can transition to a job as a writer.” Keeping it real, I recognized that there truly is no such thing as “going viral” or “being discovered.” This goal will take time. I thought I’d give it a year or two. Now, after a few months, my resolve is fading.

December was a month minus my regular client that provided more than 2 years of work. I started editing images for episcura (link not guaranteed to work much longer). Eventually, I was handling the Twitter, Facebook and G+ accounts as well. Two of the three owners had the reigns of the social network accounts as well. They grabbed followers, bought ads and responded to some questions while I posted the day to day content. From there, it spun into me blogging for them.

The company, episcura, has decided to close up shop. While 3D artist do need HDRI and texture images for their work, it is simply too easy to appropriate pictures from a Google image search, rather than pay for quality work. Furthermore, technology advancements continue to make photogrammetry more practical and efficient.

As I mentioned last month, even though I could sense it coming, losing the gig was quite a shock. Thus, I spent much of the month in self-doubt and low confidence. I wanted to double my efforts with my remaining client, but my ego was too bruised to give it my all. December is a holiday month spent with family and friends, but it was feeling shame because I had lost what little income I had. The month is typically a busy month because firms are trying to spend the last of their yearly budget in order to get the same amount renewed for the following year. However with the last week of December a write-off because of Christmas, I felt it would be difficult to find a new client in the 3 weeks left of the year. Perhaps that was the self-doubt talking?

Monthly Summary

Those are some very sad numbers, indeed. I didn’t get a lot of assignments from my remaining client because they were busy with an art opening. I’m somewhat mad at myself for not running with the freedom and pouring some content out on their site. For episcura, I ran with the ball and posted one article a day, sometimes more. I think initiative and confidence go hand and hand, and I was lacking the later. I’ve done freelance for years and clients come and go, but I was really invested in episcura, so I took it personally. The bright spot in the month is a piece I did on a new social network.

Other Income

Paul is always there when I need him. My friend and co-host started publishing our past live shows and kept me busy with show notes and writing updates on our Patreon page. We even got together for a short show and talked about smart watches.

January began with a trip away from the gloom of winter. Hopefully the sunshine will inspire a better report next time.

I just watched this Adam Ruins Everything video on how Facebook & Google aren't "free." It's somewhat funny considering that College Humor had around 16 pieces of tracking software on it. Anything for those precious clicks!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pFX2P7JLwA

September 2016 Monthly Income Report

4 min read

What?

Yes. This is probably one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever done. I'm about to tell you how ridiculously poor I am. You know what? Scratch that privileged mindset. I'm about to tell you how much money I make. I'm putting realistic data out in the open instead of fooling myself & others with peachy social network posts of how great I am at my new career.

I hope this experiment is useful data for others interested in making a living writing, but I really need to do this for me. First, I need to measure my progress. Maybe a career switch is a bad idea and I'm going through some mid-life crisis? I'll need to look at concrete numbers to make that decision. That brings me to the second point, I am my own worst enemy. There's a good chance that I could be doing an excellent job and making enough money to live, but I'd never let myself believe it. Having a monthly income report, seeing the changes, good and bad, will help me objectively judge my progress.

Progress Thus Far

At the end of August, I added a new client. That's the good news. I'm lucky enough to have befriended someone in the biz who is willing to help me find more work and possibly build my reputation. I think that the opportunity to learn and make more connections overweighs the fact that this new client pays less than my regular writing gig. I wanted to share these decisions here because it will certainly affect my income. In August, I made $1,015 writing mostly for a single client. I've been writing for client uno since last November. Now, I'm eager to progress and find more opportunities.

As you can see on the right, putting more time into the new gig has cut into my profits from client uno. Well you can't see it exactly, because I didn't track my hours on the new job. I get paid per piece, but in the following reports I will add hours to reflect my growth. Basically, I wrote the same amount of articles for client uno in less time. So hey! I'm getting faster at what I do. That's progress.

I should note that the hours & pay for my original client also include the task of daily social media posts to Twitter & Facebook.

Other Income & Freebies

On top of my work for others, I produce lots of content in my own schemes. I produce two podcasts and I am hoping to add a third. For our Montreal Sauce podcast we have a Patreon page for listeners to give money if they are so inclined. Currently we have two patrons and after Patreon (& the money transaction service they use) takes a cut, we got a total of $5.33 for September. I split that with my friend, and co host, which leaves me with $2.66. I haven't added that to the monthly income, because I put the money aside for more podcast-related goodies like equipment, internet service, business cards and other expenses.

The Patreon page has also become a way to communicate with listeners. Thus, I've decided to start publishing stories there weekly, but I won't add them to the numbers. Perhaps, I'll put them in this section.

Since I added a second client this month, I didn't do any freebies. I focused on doing good work for the new boss and it paid off, but more on that later. One of my goals when I started writing was to get myself out there. Thus, I have volunteered to write for my friends sites to build a reputation and a portfolio. This month, I was unable to reach that goal, but I have a freebie lined up for October.

Monthly Summary

The big thing that stands out is that I made much less this month than the last. So, I did a quick average of what I have been making from the single client who bravely took me on last November. I was averaging around $767 a month. Therefore, this month's numbers don't look too bad. Of course, I did add an additional client and more work for myself this month. However, it has already paid off. Super awesome client deux has already introduced me to an organization responsible for a number of large online publications! The client number may go up next month. Woo!

While the income went down, I couldn't be more happy that after only a month, client deux thinks enough of me to connect me to the editor-in-chief that he works with. I had a Skype conversation with her last week and I'll be pitching stories this coming week. Wish me luck.

A Sundae for Robocop - A Guide for My Funeral

11 min read

My death is such a terribly frightening thought that my brain refuses to ponder it for more than 4.7 seconds. In April, I enjoyed Taryn Arnold’s For my 25th Birthday My Best Friends Wrote Me Eulogies and recently, I attended a funeral. These events got me thinking about how I want to go out. See, thinking about my funeral is different than thinking about not existing. For anyone that finds this post, I hope you enjoy my musings. For my family and loved ones, this is a set of instructions.

Immortality-challenged

Deep breath.

Alright, that Super Brownie Sundae Challenge at [insert restaurant here] has done me in, literally. First up, you need to make sure that the establishment doesn’t end the contest because of me. Just because I failed the 2 gallon gut buster doesn’t mean it’s not a fun way to promote their restaurant. Arguably, ending the silly promotion after my death looks like admitting guilt. Tell the owners and the media that I died doing the thing I love, eating ice cream.

Next up, what do you do with my body? What are my wishes? I guess, despite being dead, it’s respectful to do as I wish. If I’m being honest, I would simply ask not to be dead. I assume putting me in a new body or a terrifying robot is still Hollywood fantasy? Fine. So do I wish to be cremated? Or do you need to find a big enough cigar box to put me in and bury me the back yard. Presumably, next to the squirrel you saw dad hit with the lawn mower when you were 6 and forced him to perform a funeral for it. It’s only a tough question because I’d just rather not be dead.

Cremate me, I guess. We’ll get to what to do with that leftover bone and ash later.

Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

I don’t want to leave you hanging on like a yo-yo, but everyone grieves differently. Personally, my process rarely starts before the funeral. Rather than enlisting the help of a religious leader–that is, instead of paying a church to perform my service I would love a friend or family member to take the lead. Of course, only if he/she is comfortable doing it. I assume that the Hoff is either too expensive or frozen under glass in a tomb in Germany. You could ask Taryn Arnold or Justin Hall because they both have the right attitude and empathy. Otherwise a funeral director will work. Ideally, a grief counselor would be amazing.

While some find solace in faith, I believe it would be better to have professional help for mourners. If there’s a tacky printed program to commemorate my funeral service, be sure to add the name of a grief counselor and a way to contact her or him. I don’t mean to snub those with religious beliefs. I believe they will already have a support system in the form of their own pastor, priest or shaman.

As in life, the funeral is about me. One of the things that really bothers me at services is when the priest or religious leader turns my friend, or family member’s death into a commercial for his/her faith. “Don’t mourn Cindy, she’s in a better place because she put money in a dish when we passed it around and performed a sacred incantation. It’s a great reminder that you need to buy now because supplies are running low!”

I’m sorry for that tasteless portrayal of a faith leader, but that’s how I have felt so many times during funerals. I am hurt, vulnerable and dazed from losing someone very dear to me. Is this time to sell me life insurance? Are we exiting the funeral home through the back door to ignore the life insurance agents collected outside the front doors like paparazzi? No. It’s called respect. My funeral service isn’t a commercial for faith “X.” Let’s respect all the mourners and me. Let’s talk about me. It’s my favorite subject, alive or dead.

Paying the Piper

Let’s get to this “ceremony.” This is the part I like the least. Ceremony, I can’t stand it at weddings or funerals. Please don’t do any weird symbolic things with candles, sand, rope or ribbon. People have a hard enough time dealing with death. Let’s not confuse them with metaphors.

The same goes for poetry. I cannot stress this enough. I need poetry like a fish needs a bicycle. Typically loved ones reading the piece are overcome with emotions or deliver it dead pan. Pun intended. Jokes aside, this is the most important rule– no poetry. For me, poetry only serves as a distraction from the service and the mourning because I despise it so much. If someone thinks they have a poem or song that just fits, convince them otherwise or hire my friend Andy Luther to read it because he’s great at cold readings. (Should I keep a pun count?)

Here’s a novel idea, how about talking about my cause of death? It seems to be the hushed conversation of the audience but rarely covered in the service. “Chris gorged on a 2 gallon ice cream sundae, fell into a diabetic coma (diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome) and passed, shortly thereafter.” Perhaps I am so terrified of death because we don’t face it head-on in our society? I do know that mourning the loss of my uncle became very real when I was allowed to see his blue, bloated body before they cremated him. It may sound morbid, but how many of your deceased loved ones have you seen on a death bed or in a state of lifelessness? At the funeral service, they make the bodies up to look as if they are sleeping. I think it can be very hard to accept the loss if we are constantly ignoring the truth. So address my death in the service. I’m not saying to put my body in the cooler full of ice and drinks. Though, the “stiff drink” pun would be amazing.

Tell stories of our harrowing adventures together. Share tales that embarrass me, I promise not to blush. If you want to roast me, that’s perfect. Please let there be laughter at my funeral. Making people laugh brings me endless joy. There’s a talking point right there! "Chris was a cliché in life, always desperate to make people laugh."

Now, let’s eat! It might be in bad taste to have ice cream if I have truly cashed out from a diabetic coma, but the after-gathering is a very important part of any funeral. The service is the last official act to help many cope with accepting the loss, but the bland sandwiches afterwards are just an excuse to console each other. If we’re being realistic, this is the first time many of you will have seen relatives and friends in ages. This is a social gathering.

Many people say, “I don’t want a funeral, just have a party!” We have parties to celebrate events and the simple act of showing up is all you need to do to support the person or event. The party itself should be for the guests. And so, after the service, enjoy the people around you. Catch up with acquaintances, relive the old days and be present. This will be something I will be unable to do. Think about that. Use the bereavement leave from your work to see these people while you’re all in the same town. It only takes one 2 gallon sundae to take them away from you and leave you with regrets.

Heaven is a Cloud Service?

You’ve cremated the husk that stored my personality, now what? First, I don’t know what to believe anymore. Do crematories actually toast me individually, or do they load my body in with a bunch of others and melt us down together? If that’s the truth, what’s the point of holding onto the ashes of me, someone named Wilma and twenty other cadavers? Again, it’s symbolic ceremony, spreading my ashes on the beach or something. Especially if it’s me and a bunch of other people. Donate to the State park in Michigan in my name if ceremony is your thing. A hover bench with my name on it or an outhouse with excellent ventilation.

If what you get is truthfully just my ashes, do something weird with me. You can get the ashes added to a paint and commission a painting of me as Vigo the Carpathian. Have my ashes added to jewelry, stained glass or a tree.

Vigo C

Next, what do we do with digital me? Well, you can give my friend Quoc the keys and let him pretend to be me with a random update every few years. That sounds very Andy Kaufman, doesn’t it? All I ask is that my ridiculous legacy is available for people. Earlier, I wanted to make a Chris Farley joke, but I knew the Saturday Night Live clip would not be available because of the mess that is copyright. People should be able to hear my story. Presumably my death certificate reads, “Cause of death: ice cream.” That’s amazing! Don’t deny people of my ancient tweets about farts. The down side would be my likeness in VR, AR or a CG me being used to sell people things I truly wouldn’t approve of. However, you didn’t listen to my rants on Big Data when I was alive, so I assume Facebook literally owns my likeness and there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.

"Thank you for your cooperation. Good night."

As the Boyz II Men said, “it’s always hard to say goodbye.” Can you imagine doing the opposite of what Taryn did? Trying to go around to everyone you love and saying, “thanks” before you leave this Earth? That would be very hard. I’m so thankful for the 4 people I talked to today, let alone those that have had a tremendous impact on me in the last 30+ years. Thanks for the friendly conversation this morning, café employee! Seriously, saying my last goodbye & thank you to her and the other 3 people I interacted with today would be brutal. Not to mention, going through that with my wife. Yet, that’s the important thing to take away from Taryn’s “For My 25th Birthday, My Best Friends Wrote Me Eulogies.” Say it now.

So, I should take this time to thank you. Not just those of you that I call my family & friends, but even those of you that somehow found your way to this page and read this far. While I don’t have ads, the tap, or mouse click that brought you here is still a shared experience that I value. If I’m not hit by a car tomorrow, your page view may inspire me to open up about something else or bring us together in another way. Thanks for reading to the end. If I am currently on life support as you read this, please consider this blog post as my consent to be put in a cyborg-like abomination. The worst that could happen is that I become a murderous robot cleaning up the streets of Detroit.

The sundae gif at the top is from an interesting short animation from Xander Marritt & Elias Freiberger. "A reflection of life, a personification of the immediacy in the way we conduct ourselves. This shit is Bananas." Watch below and learn more at bananas.life.

BREAKING: Twitter & Facebook in talks of a merger. New service to be called Smugger.

Decentralizing Me

5 min read

centralized social networks

Welcome to my new space on the web. This site is the next step in controlling my data. I’ve stopped using Google Search, Gmail and the rest of the Google services in order to maintain my privacy and choose how I share my content. I no longer wish to be a product. Say what soapbox man? Search you are the product and learn all about how you aren’t a customer of Facebook or Google.

Why are we still using AOL?

In the internet’s infancy, you had to know the address, the URL for the page that you wanted to visit. While so many internet service providers were merely connecting people to the World Wide Web, America Online created a centralized network. They offered services, chatrooms and pages within their network. At one point, AOL had so many users that advertisers would rather have a page & keyword there than build a webpage online. Many AOL users had no need to access the world wide web, nor did they know how. This single company had a large amount of influence over online users until broadband internet came along and the even bigger cable companies were able to pull people off of AOL.

As the web and search engines grew, we no longer needed to have the exact URL recorded somewhere. The new search engines were so frequently visited that they were the best place to advertise. The data search engines recorded also became useful to advertisers.

Which terms do people search most often?

Which pages did users click on when using that term?

Who are these users?

How do you build your site so it appears at the top of a search?

Then, social networks like Twitter & Facebook came into existence. Now advertisers could get all sorts of user data. People who were reluctant to give out phone numbers and email addresses to online retailers were more than happy to share both (and so much more) with friends & family through the social networks.

Much like AOL back in the day, these new social networks are so popular that some of us feel compelled to join them because they’re the only way to communicate with some of our friends & family (not that it works). Once again, we are using a centralized service. One where we have to sign up and agree to give up our data to advertisers in order to participate.

Known example

This website built using Known is a small step to changing that. My posts here are syndicated to the larger networks I choose. In other words, the data originates here and is under my control to share with Facebook/Twitter/Google at my discretion. As you can see above, Twitter & FB likes & comments show up here to continue the conversation. No, it’s not the perfect solution because I am still part of these centralized data collection systems. Instead, it’s more like a hybrid car. Obviously, transportation must stop relying on nonrenewable resources and a hybrid that still uses gas is not the answer.

What Is The Real Solution?

Known is built on the principles of the IndieWebCamp which has already built some really great tools to make this happen. Webmention is a magical protocol that allows individual websites to communicate with each other. Well, it seems magical to me because I’m no programmer (yet, here I am using it)! My very intelligent acquaintance Jenna has built his website from the ground up and it uses Webmention. I’m not as smart as Jeena, but Known has Webmention built in as well. Here on this site, I commented on a post Jeena made on his site. When you visit Jeena’s original post you will see my post as a comment.

Webmention works like email. That is, you and I don’t need to be members of the same central provider to communicate. I can send an email to your Gmail account, even though I don’t use Gmail. That’s the incredible power of a decentralized system. Imagine a world where you didn’t need to join Twitter to stay connected to brother, Instagram to see pictures of your nephew and Facebook to receive invites to events.

We live in a world where so many of us are eager to be their own bosses. So why sign a convoluted contract? These user agreements are so full of policy loopholes they need their own web pages. Why not take control of your data? I encourage to check out Known to host your own site and support the great project. Those of you with a technical background can download Known and put it on your own domain or poke around the IndieWebCamp site to learn how to learn how to implement the principles.

geek and poke free model

a Geek & Poke cartoon shared via Attribution 3.0 CC

Get your loved ones off Facebook.

The link above is a really informative read on Facebook. Aside from the privacy issues that bother me, I really like what Virani says about the argument for FB being a great way to communicate with friends and family. Turns out, it's not a good tool at all:

...there's a big disconnect between your expectations when you communicate on Facebook and what really happens. Basically, Facebook filters out your posts based on whether or not people will use Facebook more if they don't see it.

It feels like Facebook is the only way to stay in touch. Through pictures and comments. It feels like everyone's on there and you're getting a good feed on their life.

In reality, lots of your posts are never seen by anyone! And you miss out on their stuff too. Even if your friends' stuff gets to you fine, it doesn't mean your stuff gets to them.

Replied to a post on jeena.net :

I've gone back and forth on the idea of using http://medium.com because I feel like it is just another network like tumblr or Facebook. For exposure, to promote my work or the podcast perhaps it's a good idea? However to add to Jeena's point, a centralized service like that is going to attract and promote like-minded opinions. A personal site is going to be more nuanced and possibly share many ideas.