I’m a freelancer and mother who banished burnout by scheduling my own summer Fridays just for me – here’s how I make the time

Alice Dubin
Alesandra Dubin.

  • Alesandra Dubin is a freelancer who ends work at noon every Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
  • She frees the afternoons by setting earlier deadlines for herself and putting the effort in upfront.
  • This time to herself makes her a better professional and mother during the rest of the year.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I’m a proud mom to six-year-old twins and also a proud professional with a demanding, deadline-driven solo practice.

Most days – even when I’m not emerging tentatively from a pandemic like a thawing caveperson – it all just feels like a lot.

Indeed, like most working moms, I characterize myself as generally overcommitted and exhausted. But I have a strategy aimed at banishing burnout: I make my own summer Fridays.

For most of my career, I’ve wrapped up work around noon every Friday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Up until a couple of years ago, this practice was conveniently built into my work life as an employee of various New York City-based media organizations, among which this type of structure is a common employer-sanctioned practice and a well-loved tradition among staff.

When I shifted to the full-time freelance lifestyle in 2019, it was entirely up to me to defend this sacred time from work and errand creep. But by now I’ve learned that doing so is a game-changer for my lifestyle and sense of self, so I create my boundaries.

In order to make it happen, I think of the summer as a whole, rather than looking at each week or day individually.

I get analytical about how much work and what type of work I want to take on in order to keep my summer Friday afternoons free.

Sure, work has a way of bottlenecking sometimes, and some deadlines don’t go as planned. But putting in the effort upfront – setting the intention, as I do – helps lay the groundwork that supports the structure I want.

I’m also an obsessive time manager, so I give myself – and stick to – artificial deadlines early enough that I avoid the potential for a Friday bottleneck.

In most cases, I assign myself deadlines only Monday through Thursday for the work requiring the most brainpower and time commitment – even if that means I’m delivering well ahead of a client’s drop-dead needs.

This, of course, is a good thing: It doesn’t just reduce my own stress on Fridays, but it also has the benefit of making me a favorite freelancer among my clients, and that general approach yields me more income over the course of the whole year (even if it occasionally might mean a bit less during a given week here or there in the summer).

If I’m in town, here’s what I might do on a summer Friday: Take myself to a solo matinee, get a massage, or go for a hike alone with my podcasts.

A post shared by Alesandra (Alice) Dubin (@alicedubin)

Here’s what I don’t do: Return stuff to Target, get a dental cleaning, or accidentally schedule a work meeting.

These few hours when my kids are in school and my husband is at work are reserved for joyful, indulgent, or contemplative activities – not to check stuff off a list. These 12 Friday afternoons provide my only time dedicated for this purpose in a typical year, and I believe they comprise a key pillar of my mental-health strategy.

Summer Fridays take the edge off the rest of the week. And they mean my kids get the best of me – not the smoke-breathing version of me who might be limping out of a week of meetings without having yet had a chance to regroup.

And summer Fridays are a mental-health boon throughout not just these weeks, but the whole year, too: It’s a cherished rhythm I look forward to and that makes me more productive, like a vacation already booked.

“By taking time exclusively for yourself and exclusively for the purpose of bringing pleasure, joy, and comfort into your life, [that’s] actually an act of radical self-compassion,” Leah Rockwell, a licensed professional counselor and founder of Rockwell Wellness, which specializes in therapy for burnout, told Insider.

The notion of radical self-compassion comes from a concept founded by Kristin Neff nearly 20 years ago.

“Yet for many overworked, overachieving women, it is an amazingly difficult concept to actually integrate into our daily lives,” Rockwell said. “While we might be the first person to rabidly advocate that a girlfriend should do whatever it takes to care for or prioritize herself, many of us cannot extend that same permission to ourselves.”

Rockwell said that by building that permission into my actual schedule, I’m showing myself (and others around me, too) that my emotional wellness is a priority for me. “Why not capitalize on how summer can fortify us?” she added.

Engaging in a relationship with what brings us joy is something that we witness our children do all day long, but we often deny it of ourselves as adults. “By structuring your summer weeks as you are, you’ve invited back into your life the bliss of summer that we often assume that adults just don’t have a right to, yet we inherently long for,” Rockwell said.

Podcast host and bestselling author Gretchen Rubin calls it “designing your summer.”

“You want there to be something special about summer,” she said. “If you don’t actually plan that out or at least be very intentional about it, it’s very easy for days to just slip by.”

Anyone can design their summer – not just people who make their own work hours or have lots of disposable income.

“It’s not about taking massive amounts of time off work,” Rubin said. Rather, it’s an attitude.

Habits and routines have the effect of speeding up time, whereas “time feels rich and slow when things are different,” Rubin said. (That’s why a three-day vacation can feel like a full chapter in our lives.) So to make our lives feel richer and more textured, we must make an effort to do something apart from our seasonally nonspecific routines.

And I need that distinction perhaps now more than ever given how the pandemic presented a seemingly endless stretch of days marked by the unrelenting sameness of staying at home.

As the world opens up again, I’m setting aside both time and headspace for novelty, for variety, for pleasurable personal challenges that stand to make time feel ever so slightly less ephemeral and much more vivid (all while actually fortifying my earning potential all year long).

Join me?

Read the original article on Business Insider

I’m a formerly incarcerated person who luckily found success. It’s time to expunge the records of former prisoners and end their perpetual punishment.

rikers island
Inmates file out of the prison bakery at the Rikers Island jail after working the morning shift, in New York. Nearly a third of Rikers Island inmates who said their visible injuries came at the hands of a correction officer last year had suffered a blow to the head.

  • The economic toll of a conviction is especially devastating for Black and brown people, who represent 80% of those who have a conviction.
  • A conviction can lead to a loss of half a million dollars over a lifetime.
  • New York State has the chance to reset the lives of more than two million of its residents by passing the Clean Slate NY Act.
  • Ashish Prashar is the Global Chief Marketing Officer at R/GA and a justice reform activist.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I am extremely lucky to be where I am.

I am the Chief Marketing Officer for a global company. I have worked for elected officials in the UK and the US with their press corps and campaign operations. I own a home in Manhattan. And, by the way, I was incarcerated for a “crime”.

Incarceration has the most profound effect on the person who is serving time, but the consequences reach far beyond the prison walls. When I recently shared my story of being a formerly incarcerated person who made it to the C-Suite, I was again reminded of the destructive nature of our justice system. I heard from colleagues whose loved ones struggle to find work; of friends losing out on dream jobs because of background checks, and the emotional and psychological toll of experiencing these disappointments time and time again. The emotional strain on those individuals and their families was all too familiar. “What will become of me, of us?” is a question that never goes away.

My success has been nurtured by providence from people who understood that my mistake would doom me to a Sisyphean challenge, unable to reach the top of that proverbial hill, unless they became determined to help me. That challenge? A criminal justice system that extracts a pound of flesh and, like the vengeful Javert, routinely returns to perpetually punish people like me for a mistake.

My good fortune though, is incredibly rare. I am blessed to have had family members with the means to support me and a prospective employer willing to give me a chance. Many people don’t have this kind of support. For most incarcerated people, once they are out they fall back into cycles of deprivation that usually got them there in the first place, doomed to steal that proverbial loaf of bread again because their criminal records carry a scarlet letter that allows society to treat them as “less than.” We must create an environment where more people can tell a story like mine.

A conviction’s enduring collateral damage can be wide-ranging – permanently barring individuals from basic needs like employment and housing. Even though people who are released are said to be free, they’re not. They are over-supervised, over-policed, pushed out of employment, housing, and school, and often harassed back into incarceration.

More than 70 million Americans have a record and five million are formerly incarcerated people who have an unemployment rate of 27%. Today’s general unemployment rate is around 6%.

The economic toll of a conviction record is especially devastating for Black and brown people, who represent 80% of those who have received a conviction. They experience higher unemployment and poverty rates, and estimates show that a conviction can cause a loss of nearly $500,000 in income over a lifetime.

We are not just causing further economic and emotional harm, we are also wasting potential that could be working to discover cures to deadly illnesses, designing cleaner and greener cities, or, like me, revitalizing Main Street brands. The economic benefits to both employers and the national economy are clear. It’s essential that our laws are changed because we can’t rely on individual acts of kindness or a company to do the right thing.

Wipe the Slate Clean

New York State has the chance to lead the way and give more than two million of its residents a second chance through “Clean Slate” legislation. Advocates and impacted people seek a new law that will automatically seal and expunge a resident’s conviction record once they are eligible.

Right now, the system we have for expungement in New York is broken. It is application-based, extraordinarily difficult to navigate and costly. In the three years since this system was created, less than 1% of eligible people have successfully had their records expunged.

The Clean Slate legislation proposed in Albany is designed as a two-step process to end the perpetual punishment of a conviction record. A conviction will be automatically sealed one year after sentencing on the individual’s last misdemeanor conviction and three years after sentencing on their last felony conviction, not including time incarcerated.

A conviction will be automatically expunged five years after sentencing on the individual’s last misdemeanor conviction and seven years after sentencing on their last felony conviction.

This is a common sense step that will make New York’s communities stronger. And we know that these types of systems work. A recent study found that within two years of clearing their records under Michigan law, individuals’ wages increased by an average of 25%. According to the same Michigan study, five years after benefitting from record clearance, individuals were less likely than members of the general public to commit crimes.

Our system punishes people unfairly. Millions of New Yorkers are needlessly unemployed or underemployed, homeless or without permanent housing, just because they have a conviction record.

Formerly incarcerated people are not a separate population; they are members of our society. They are our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and friends and must be treated as such. I may be the exception in this system, but I want my experience to become the rule. That’s why we need the Clean Slate NY Act.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Florida’s Democratic Party is having an identity crisis: 2020 losses were the culmination of strategic missteps, cultural blindness, and internal divides

Florida ballots
An employee works with ballot tabulating machines as counting is underway for the general election at the Broward County Voting Equipment Center, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Lauderhill, Fla.

  • After Florida Democrats lost almost every critical race, many thought the state’s Democratic Party had hit rock bottom.
  • Florida’s Democratic operatives are struggling to understand how they got here and how they can fix the party.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After Florida Democrats lost almost every critical race, many Floridians thought the state’s party had hit rock bottom. Then came the news that the party had more than $860,000 in outstanding debt at the end of 2020, and a scandal over lapsed payment for staffers’ health insurance following the November election.

Now, four months after the election, the state’s Democratic operatives are struggling to understand how they got here and how they can fix the party.

Donald Trump won Florida in November by record margins, beating out Joe Biden by 3.3 points – a stark win in the perennial swing state. The down-ballot races were even worse. Democrats lost a majority of the state House races, as well as every battleground race for the state Senate.

But while 2020 was by far the worst year in recent history for the state’s Democrats, it was far from an isolated occurrence. Business Insider spoke with several political operatives and elected politicians, all of whom said the same thing: last year’s losses were the culmination of several cycles of strategic missteps, cultural blindness, and internal divides over the direction of the Party.

For more than two decades, Florida hovered in a strange political position. At the national level, it was a highly contested swing state with a huge population, leading many presidential campaigns to see the state as crucial to their success. But when it came to local and state elections, Florida remained overwhelmingly Republican.

Starting in the 1990s, Republicans began to organize on a grassroots level to flip state Senate seats, according to Kartik Krishnaiyer, a political analyst who runs The Florida Squeeze, a local political news site. By the time Bill Clinton swept the state in 1996 by the largest margin in modern history, Republicans already controlled the state legislature. Two years later, in 1998, Republicans would also win the governor’s seat. Since then, Democrats have not won a gubernatorial race in Florida, nor have they held a majority in the legislature.

Part of this is due to the Democratic Party’s insistence on viewing minority groups as a homogenous body, rather than a diverse electorate.

In the most recent election, Republicans took out Spanish-language ads on Telemundo and Latin radio stations, often using them as an opportunity to spread disinformation. Republicans also focused on hot-button issues like immigration, intentionally provoking divides within the Hispanic community. Still, Democratic strategists in the state held fast to their belief that they had “the Hispanic vote” locked down, and failed to counter Republican messaging. The results were devastating: in 2016, Hillary Clinton swept Miami-Dade county, which is overwhelmingly Hispanic, by more than 30 points. In November, Biden won by just seven points.

Democratic field organizers alerted party leadership to their messaging failures during the campaign, but their warnings often fell on deaf ears, according to one senior operative. As early as 2018, organizers in South Florida informed party officials that Republicans were framing Democratic policies as socialist in order to sway Cuban and Venezuelan voters away from the Democratic party. However, the party failed to take meaningful action to combat this messaging.

latinos for trump
Supporters of US President Donald Trump rally outside the “Latinos for Trump Roundtable” event at Trump National Doral Miami golf resort in Doral, Florida, on September 25, 2020.

“Until Democrats do a better job of understanding those distinctions, and not treating the electorate as monolithic, we’re going to continue to falter in Florida,” says Juan Peñalosa, who was the Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party during the 2020 election.

Independent consultants were behind many of these messaging failures, according to several operatives.

These consultants, many of whom double-dip as lobbyists during off years, are hired by campaigns to craft strategy and lead field organizing efforts. But consultants are not affiliated with the party. Therefore, they have little incentive to build anything beyond that specific election, according to Stephanie Porta, the Director of Florida Rising, a progressive political action group.

These consultants have become a flashpoint between the Party’s progressive wing and the centrists who make up the bulk of it, and who often rely on consultants to run their campaigns. For progressives, consultants embody the hands-off, myopic approach that has led the Party to consistently fail at growing its base. “You can’t just show up in people’s neighborhood when there’s a campaign, you have to show up all the time,” says Anna Eskamani, a progressive state representative from Orlando.

When it comes to showing up, Eskamani says that many centrists are unwilling to match their words to their actions. She points to the fact that many Democrats wavered on a $15 minimum wage law, for which a majority of Floridians voted in November. By failing to identify the Party with concrete, actionable policies, Democrats have kept away large swaths of the electorate.

There are signs that the Florida Democratic Party is starting to change, however.

In January, the party elected Manny Diaz, the former mayor of Miami, as its new chairman. Diaz, who is known for his fundraising prowess, came into the position promising to restructure the party and assuage donors’ concerns about investing in the state. For many donors, the losses the party suffered in the last election were “almost the last straw,” Diaz said in an interview with Business Insider. “I’ve gotten the sense from many donors that they were getting tired of investing in Florida and not seeing results,” he added.

manny diaz
Then-Vice President Joe Biden (L) talks with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez (C) as Miami Mayor Manny Diaz speaks in Miami, Florida, on March 5, 2009.

Diaz seems to have been successful, at least in reversing the party’s nearly million-dollar deficit. The Florida Democratic Party raised around $2 million over the last three months and its latest federal report shows that it has almost $200,000 in cash on hand. When accounting for its state accounts, which aren’t listed on the FEC filing, the Party says it has around $750,000 in cash available.

The 2022 election will be a watershed for the party. With both Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio up for reelection in 2022, Democrats have a chance to restructure the party and gain a modicum of control over the state. The roster of potential names runs the gambit, from centrists like Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist to progressives like Eskamani.

To win, the party will have to define itself, both internally and to voters. For many, “it’s not a re-education, but something they will hear for the first time,” says Peñalosa. “What does the Florida Democratic Party stand for? Who are we? And why should you vote for us?”

Read the original article on Business Insider

I’m a ‘sugar baby’ who gets paid $500 a date – here’s what it’s really like to date sugar daddies and get cash, gifts, and 5-star hotel stays

sugar cubes
Sugar babies get cash and gifts to go on dates with their sugar daddies.

  • A freelance writer in her 30s shared her experiences as a “sugar baby.
  • This story was first published in 2019; the writer chose to stay anonymous to protect her identity.
  • She discussed everything from the gifts she’s received to how she spots a scammer online.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Note: The author is a freelance writer in her 30s whose identity was verified by Insider. While some people consider sugar relationships a form of sex work, it’s a label rejected by sugar dating sites and some members themselves. This story was originally published in 2019 as part of a series on the financial side of relationships; you can read other entries in the series here.

Six months ago, I decided to become a sugar baby.

My reasoning was simple. I’d grown frustrated with dating men in my city – maybe I’d just had one too many Tinder dates end in mediocre conversation. My day job offers me control over my schedule, since I don’t work a traditional nine-to-five. I wanted to supplement my income and have some fun doing it, so I decided to try finding a sugar daddy.

For the uninitiated, “sugaring” is a form of dating in which one partner financially supports the other, often in the form of cash or gifts. As a woman in a major city with an appreciation for societal deviance, I figured the lifestyle might suit me well.

Whether it was exhaustion of millennial swiping, or maybe the thrill of experiencing life outside my usual means, I found myself creating a profile on the primary website for sugaring connections, SeekingArrangement.

Related: My divorce cost me $17,695 – these were the most surprising expenses I faced

In the half-year since then, I’ve met some highly interesting people – not to mention I’ve received thousands of dollars in cash, trips across the country, access to five-star hotels and restaurants, and expensive gifts like shoes and clothing I never could have ordinarily afforded.

Read on for a firsthand look at what it’s really like to be a sugar baby.

Before I found my first sugar daddy, I needed an idea of why I was sugaring

Money

As with regular dating, if you dive into the sugaring lifestyle without an idea of what you want, you’re likely to be disappointed. 

Do you want a cash allowance, and do you have a set amount in mind? Is it certain bills you want covered? Do you want gifts, shopping, and travel? Having a clear idea of what kind of “sugar,” or exchange, you want for the relationship is key. 

How about the actual dating part — do you like dating older men? Because sugar daddies tend to be older than the women they date. How much time do you want to spend with your sugar daddy? And does your current lifestyle give you the freedom to do so?

In my short time as a sugar baby so far, men have paid me $500 a date and bought me designer clothes, $400 dinners, and stays at 5-star hotels I could never afford on my own

hotel room service cloche

In the six months since I became a sugar baby, I’ve started relationships with men who pay me $500 a date and have purchased me shoes and outfits from designers I could never afford on my own. I dined at restaurants where the bill was $400, and we’d still leave hungry. I spent weekends tucked away in five-star hotels, lazily ordering room service with cringeworthy markups. 

While I enjoy expensive dinners and staying in fancy hotels, ultimately I was searching for a friendly relationship that provides a cash allowance. Some men don’t wish to provide an allowance, and I avoid meeting and dating those men, often called “experience daddies.”

It’s worth noting you should never become a sugar baby just for the money

sugar daddy billboard

If you’re considering sugar dating solely for the money, it will be much more stressful, since it’ll become a second job.

Sugar dating amplifies the faults of regular, or “vanilla,” dating. You may receive messages from, go on first dates with, and be ghosted by far more men than in vanilla dating. And it’s a bad idea to depend on sugar as a primary source of income, because there’s never really any guarantee of stability.

Additionally, financial desperation makes you vulnerable to malicious men who have no intentions to provide sugar, or it might influence you to date men you otherwise wouldn’t consider having a relationship with.

Anonymity is key for sugar babies and sugar daddies – I created an alter ego just for my online sugaring presence

Woman typing

It’s common practice to adopt a sugar identity separate from your real-life identity. My online profile uses a generic name, and I do not disclose my real identity — even after I meet my sugar daddy in person, in some cases. 

I’m glad I do that, since every sugar daddy I’ve met has similarly guarded his identity. I suggest creating an alter ego for anyone considering trying any sort of internet fringe dating, especially sugaring. 

Along the same lines, I signed up for a few anonymous messaging apps, as well as a fake number. Popular messaging apps for “moving the conversation off the website” include WhatsApp, Kik, Snapchat, WeChat, and Signal, but a phone number is often the preferred method. I suggest getting a Google Voice number attached to an anonymous email account.

There’s an art to making a sugar-baby profile – and certain precautions you have to take

sugar baby
SeekingArrangement user Simone Toon

Getting started with a dating profile as a sugar baby is pretty simple. I described my personality and wrote a few charming epithets that I thought might be appealing to the kind of man I’d like to spend time with. 

The key thing is honesty, both in your self-descriptions and your pictures. While face-altering filters exist and can help mask your identity, apparently it’s a turnoff for men. (And I’ve had men straight-up message me, “Thank goodness you don’t have a dog-filter picture!”)  

I think the most common misconception about becoming a sugar baby is that sugar daddies are looking to date only 18-year-old blond models. This is largely untrue — being traditionally attractive certainly helps, but a sugar baby can look like any woman of just about any age. I don’t get discouraged, and I try to attract only men who I think will find me attractive. Being deceptive with appearances will only hurt you later. 

The secrecy of the sugaring lifestyle means I have to be careful about the pictures I use on my dating profiles. Many sugar daddies will run a reverse-image search of sugar babies’ profile pictures in an attempt to avoid scammers who are using photos from models and influencers. 

To protect my identity, I make sure not to use photos that exist anywhere on my social-media accounts. I have a strict “no cross-contamination” rule when it comes to photos. Also, I make sure I know which photos are viewable to the public and which are available by request only. I’ll often check back and remove viewing privileges from certain men if the conversation didn’t lead any further.

I quickly learned some of the lingo that sugar babies and sugar daddies use

splenda

After dipping my toes in the sugaring community, I began to adopt the language used by sugar babies and sugar daddies in the online world. 

Sugar babies and sugar daddies are often referred to as SBs and SDs — partly for brevity’s sake and partly because some people are weirded out by saying “baby” and “daddy.”

There’s the “meet and greet,” or M&G — the sugaring community’s term for a first date. Usually, money doesn’t change hands here, though it’s not unusual for the sugar baby to receive a small gift. Some of the things I’ve received on my first dates include stuffed animals, books, and $300 cash.

Some relationships are PPM, or “pay per meet” — in those arrangements, the sugar daddy gives the sugar baby a specified amount per date. In another type of relationship, sugar daddies give an “allowance” on a set schedule, like monthly or biweekly, either in cash or through a payment app like Venmo. Many relationships start out PPM, as it’s less risky for the sugar daddy than setting up an allowance right away.

“Experience daddies” are the ones who don’t pay sugar babies in money — just gifts like fine dining, hotel stays, and glamorous vacations. A “Splenda daddy” is a sugar daddy with a cheaper budget. And a “salt daddy” is just a jerk, especially if they’re faking generosity just to get into your pants.

And though the term’s a bit crass, sugar babies have to be wary of what the community calls a “pump and dump” — the common occurrence of a false sugar daddy not providing any allowance or PPM, getting intimate with a sugar baby, and ghosting. To avoid falling victim to one of these, you should never initiate any intimacy with a sugar daddy unless you’ve already received your sugar.

Before I meet up with any guy, I iron out the terms of our arrangement

woman texting summer outdoors

To get what I was looking for out of a sugar relationship, I had to become comfortable bringing it up with men. 

There are plenty of men on the site trying to get laid free, so I learned to not assume they’d provide any financial compensation on their own. 

I would bring up the subject before the meet-and-greet. When I first began meeting men off the site, I was pretty timid about even mentioning an allowance — and regrettably realized they had no intention of sugaring me. 

Some people would say on their profiles that they “don’t want anything transactional,” usually meaning they don’t want to pay for sex or dating — in fact, the word “transactional” in a profile is pretty much a red flag that sugar babies avoid at all costs.

A lot of sugar daddies are married, which provides some challenges

wedding ring engagement propose

Though there are no age limits for sugar babies and sugar daddies, it’s common for a sugar daddy to be significantly older than the sugar baby. 

And in many cases, the sugar daddy is married.

Having an extramarital sugar baby requires some level of discretion. Being recognized in public could cause either of you personal or professional distress, not to mention it could lower your sugaring prospects. 

Personally, I didn’t have a problem dating sugar daddies who were married. After all, they were the ones who contacted me — and if they are willing to go through the effort of messaging me and agreeing on an arrangement, they’d be willing to do it for someone else.

Related: 8 things I wish I knew before I got divorced

All sugar babies have to decide how much of a commitment they want with their sugar daddies

Beach Couple

It’s important to be on the same page about how much of a time commitment you want in your sugaring relationship.

Some sugar daddies want to meet several times a week, while others prefer once a month.

I find myself liking the attention of men who enjoy hearing from me throughout the week but don’t need my attention all day, every day. I certainly can enjoy the company of an older man and don’t have qualms about being seen in public with a sugar daddy. It’s a decision every person needs to make for themselves.

There are a ton of safety concerns I have to keep in mind as a sugar baby – as well as scams that fake sugar daddies try to run

woman laptop phone

On top of setting up a Google Voice number, there are several other safety precautions I had to take as I got deeper into the sugaring lifestyle.

For one, it’s always good to let people know where you are when you’re meeting strangers from the internet. I tell all my dates that I have a friend I need to check in with on first dates, and I have never had a negative response to this. Everyone agrees — safety first.

I also was very careful when accepting Uber rides or Venmo transactions early on in a relationship. Giving away your address or your regular Venmo handle is giving away free information. In an age where our phone apps hold so much personal information, being in control of the flow of your personal information is vital.

When I first made my profile, I got an initial flood of messages from men. “How did they even find me?” I wondered. The answer is that scammers prey on new accounts. I learned to hold the excitement for a bit and I got comfortable recognizing and weeding out the scammy, copy-paste introductions.

Additionally, I quickly realized that anyone who asks you for your bank information to send you money before you’ve met is a scammer. A common scam involves them sending a check or MoneyGram in excess of your allowance and asking you to purchase a gift card with the excess. This scam works on naive sugar babies who think they’ve received a large gift, when in reality they’ve cashed in on money that their bank will eventually find is fake, while the scammer walks away with a free gift card.

Even after meeting, there are plenty of better methods to send you your allowance. No one needs your personal information to wire to your bank as if it’s the 1990s. As the eternal truth stands — cash is king.

I don’t consider what I do sex work, but sugar babies have a range of opinions on it

Prostitute
A prostitute waits for customers at a popular bar district in Shanghai June 7, 2003.

Lots of sugar babies shudder at the idea of what they do as sex work. 

I think of sugaring as an enjoyable deviance with a financial benefit, and while I don’t consider it sex work, I understand why some might. 

When opening yourself up to fringe dating of any sort, you’ll attract men with varying goals. Some men on SeekingArrangement are looking to spend $200 for a quick romp. Other men will want to provide a monthly allowance and business insight for their dates, have an intimate relationship, and even consider marriage down the line.

I find myself somewhere in the middle. I don’t enjoy one-night stands, and I definitely enjoy indulging in a relationship, but wouldn’t consider something permanent with any of the men I’ve been on sugar dates with.

Interestingly, not all sugar daddies want a sexual or intimate relationship

monopoly board game losing money investing

Some sugar babies will ask about platonic arrangements, being turned off by the idea of intimacy with a sugar daddy.

Not surprisingly, most sugar daddies won’t see the value in financially providing for a sugar baby without intimacy.

That said, I have actually met two so far, but not because I went looking for such an arrangement. In one case, the man had some qualms about being intimate, so he paid me for an afternoon of tea and board games, and we had a lovely afternoon just not being lonely.

You don’t find these situations — they find you.

And yes, ‘sugar mamas’ exist – but they’re exceedingly hard to find

couple travel woman man kiss

Often on forums where sugaring is discussed, it’s very common for newer sugar babies to ask for advice from the community. One of the most popular repeated posts are men looking for “sugar mamas.”

The overwhelming response is: Women do not need to pay for sex, and therefore, sugar mamas are next to impossible to find.

That is not to say they don’t exist, but they are the exception, not the rule.

Being a sugar baby requires a lot of patience – but it’s worth it

sugar cubes
Sugar babies get cash and gifts to go on dates with their sugar daddies.

As sugaring becomes more mainstream, the potential to have your time wasted by a Splenda daddy or a scammer increases. 

Becoming a sugar baby requires a great deal of patience and willingness to go on bad dates before you find someone you want to pursue a relationship with. 

But it can also be incredibly rewarding and a great deal of fun. I’ve taken multiple flights, received a wide range of allowances and gifts, and met some very interesting people during my short time as a sugar baby. 

The lifestyle may not be for everyone, but it works for me.

This article was first published by Insider in 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Freelancers are freaking out about the PRO Act. Here is why they should – and shouldn’t – be worried.

PRO act Bobby Scott
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, speaks during a press conference advocating for the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act in the House of Representatives on February 5, 2020.

  • The PRO Act, which passed in the House, includes a metric for reclassifying workers that freelancers object to.
  • Many independent contractors don’t object to the right to collective bargaining, but worry the bill could set a dangerous precedent.
  • Lawmakers must strip the “ABC test” from the bill.
  • Larry Buhl is a multimedia journalist, author, and podcast host.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Back in 2019, I predicted that California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), which upset the independent contractor world by reclassifying freelancers in hundreds of occupations as employees unless they could prove they’re not, would be seen by other lawmakers as a road map, rather than a cautionary tale. And here we are: a new bill working its way through Congress, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021 – or PRO Act – should give independent contractors across the country reason to worry, though not necessarily because of the intent of the legislation.

The ABC test

What made AB5 so problematic was its reliance on the ABC employment test to classify workers. ABC says a freelancer should be an employee, unless:

“A) The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact; and

B) The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and

C) The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.”

The worker must meet all three. Part B is where many independent contractors went through the buzzsaw: If you’re in the same business as a client, you must be an employee, and, presumably the company would hire you, even if you’ve only been putting in a few hours a week for them. Yet, instead, most employers are just not working with California freelancers anymore.

ABC is also the basis for reclassification in the PRO Act, which passed the House of Representatives earlier this month with bipartisan support. However, there’s one big difference: While AB5 reclassified employment status for workers in California, the PRO Act reclassifies freelancers nationally, but only for the purpose of collective bargaining rights. That’s all – or so it states. Supporters say it “levels the playing field” for unions, to give more people the right to vote in union elections.

I spoke with Professor Michael LeRoy, an expert in labor law and labor relations at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, to find out whether freelancers should worry about the PRO Act. He said there’s been some hyperbole and misunderstanding about it.

“Does [the PRO Act] force you to be in a union? No. If 10 million [freelancers] are classified as employees, a certain amount will want to form one or join one, but they could also vote no,” he told me.

I’d be okay with more people being able to collectively bargain if they want. Freelancers I spoke with aren’t apoplectic about theoretical pressure to join a union, either. What does concern us greatly is the ABC test being used to reclassify independent contractors for any reason. Almost everyone I spoke with feared the ABC test would be misapplied by companies who read the reclassification part of the law, but miss the part about unions. Freelancers also worry that the ABC test will set a precedent for future legislation. It already has: Several states used AB5 as a model when proposing new “gig worker protection laws.”

Unintended consequences

Fred Topel, a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and co-leader of California Freelance Writers United (CAFWU), implored national lawmakers to not use the ABC test. “If you take out the ABC test, I think a majority of [CAFWU] members would support it. We’ve seen no evidence that AB5 worked as lawmakers intended, but plenty of evidence of unintended negative consequences from the ABC test,” he said.

Robert Sette, a freelance translator in Denver, predicted that any big change to labor laws using the ABC test would make hiring companies think twice about using independent contractors. “Many won’t see [the PRO Act] as only for labor organizing. They’ll see this as a risk management issue. To avoid possibly running afoul of the law, they’ll cut loose freelancers.”

That did happen in California. The Facebook group Freelancers Against AB5 has been compiling personal stories of independent contractors in California who lost work and income directly as a result of that law, well before the COVID-19 crisis. Based on dozens of “no Californians need apply” notices citing AB5 as the reason, it appears that many companies were so bewildered by the law and scared of fines for possibly violating it, they simply gave up on California independent contractors.

The road to career hell was paved with good intentions

After AB5 passed, I joined CAFWU and other advocates in California to petition state representatives to amend the law. We succeeded in getting exemptions for some professions.

Through the process, we learned that most lawmakers had no clue about the scope of the independent contractor world, and assumed most people deriving an income were either employers, employees, or exploited would-be employees. The bill’s biggest proponents said, in so many words: Don’t worry if you lose work because all your clients will hire you full time, with benefits! We explained that’s not how it works, emphasizing that most independent contractors are thriving professionals.

I recognize that some independent contractors do want full-time work, and that many other workers are truly misclassified and exploited. There should be protections from misclassification, except – there already are laws covering that. Any worker can sue for misclassification right now – albeit with difficulty.

We don’t need new laws that help some, but also legislate hundreds of thousands of successful careers out of existence. LeRoy agreed the ABC test is a blunt tool that “oversimplifies” the labor force and would need “significant refinements” and exemptions if kept in place. A potential solution could be a multi-factor balancing framework to determine who’s an employee, one like the IRS uses.

In order to prevent the ABC test from wreaking havoc on more independent contractors’ lives, constituents must start conversations with their representatives, starting with the Senate subcommittee members that will be discussing it. They could point to surveys showing that 30% of the US workforce is either self-employed or hired by the self-employed and estimates that freelance income is nearly 5% of GDP.

Stripping the ABC test from the PRO Act could prevent lawmakers from proposing more damaging bills, like the one written last year by Democratic Senators Patty Murray of Washington and Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Their bill gives some benefits to temp and gig workers, but, like AB5, it uses the ABC test to sweep all professions into its net.

This shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but sadly it is. Many Republicans insist any labor protections will hurt business and therefore can never be considered. Based on comments from AB5’s proponents, many Democrats assume what’s good for unions surely benefits everyone. Labor classifications must be more nuanced than that because today’s labor market is complicated.

Pro-labor lawmakers need to understand that freelancers are not necessarily suffering gig workers, or getting by until they land a “real job.” They should either toughen enforcement of existing laws or make sure new laws explicitly help workers who need protections, but not hinder independent contractors’ ability to earn a living. Labor law shouldn’t be a zero sum game.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I’m a freelancer who could lose out on income, flexibility, and being the primary caregiver to my child if the PRO Act passes

Mary Kearl
Mary Kearl.

  • Mary Kearl is a professional freelance writer and marketing consultant.
  • As a freelancer, she enjoys being able to make more money, choose her own hours, and be an active caregiver to her toddler.
  • If the PRO Act in its current form passes in the Senate, Kearl says she could potentially most of her clients and income.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Professionally, I’ve never been happier since becoming a freelancer. Sure, there are the occasional stresses of chasing down payments and the ongoing uncertainty of not knowing exactly how much I’ll earn, but as someone who thrives when I’m learning and being challenged, the pros outweigh the cons.

For me and my husband, who is also a freelancer, the pros include earning more per hour than when we worked full time, setting our own schedules, sharing in being the primary caregivers to our toddler, deciding the companies we work with and projects we take on, and the flexibility to work from and live anywhere – even traveling through South America for six months.

As a freelancer, I earn about three times more per hour than when I had a full-time six-figure job.

I’m not alone. A new survey from the freelancing platform Upwork found that most freelancers (75%) earn the same as or more than what they took home from their former full-time jobs.

Freelancing has been life-changing for my family, but now all of that is potentially on the line for me and millions of other freelancers because of a new bill the House of Representatives just passed called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021, or PRO Act for short.

Certain goals of the bill are concepts I support – like making updates to US labor laws to advance workers’ rights to organize and strengthen unions and aiming to prevent gig-economy companies like Uber and Lyft from designating workers such as drivers as independent contractors rather than full-time employees who would be eligible for benefits.

But there’s a fear that the PRO Act could potentially sideline the self-employed careers of individuals like me who do not want to be classified as employees and would prefer to retain our independence.

As other writers have spoken out about, the main issue for freelancers comes down to the inclusion of the ABC test within the bill, which states:

“An individual performing any service shall be considered an employee (except as provided in the previous sentence) and not an independent contractor, unless-

“(A) the individual is free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the service, both under the contract for the performance of service and in fact;

“(B) the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and

“(C) the individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business of the same nature as that involved in the service performed.”.

Self-employed contractors may “fail” to qualify as independent for any one of these reasons. For the publications I write for, publishing articles will likely be considered part of the “usual course of business” for the company. The same goes for the social media strategy, copywriting, editing, and content marketing support I’ve provided to marketing agencies.

If the PRO Act passes in the Senate without any changes to its language and the ABC test becomes the standard used to classify employees, the fallout for my career and family could be considerable.

I know because I’ve already once had to make major life changes due to the ABC test.

Last year, a California law AB5 that adopted the ABC test and impacted hundreds of types of professionals into effect and threatened to bring my new career to an end. Ultimately AB5 factored into my decision to move out of the state to a small town in Maine where I wouldn’t be impacted.

Already three of the companies I’ve worked for in a marketing capacity have worked with me through third-party companies that set up contracts with me directly to absorb the risk of working with self-employed individuals like me. Contracting freelancers through third parties is something major companies may be able to do, but that’s not likely for smaller companies.

If enough of my clients can no longer work with me as a freelancer as a result of this new law, I’ll most likely have to get a full-time job, take a pay cut, work longer hours than my current 25 hours a week, lose my flexible schedule and autonomy, and miss out on being a primary caregiver to my child.

And, unless I can find something that’s remote, I’ll likely have to move again.

This time, I’d have to go to a major city where there are more openings for writers and marketers like me. That means a higher cost of living, and, unless one or both of us can find something truly flexible, we’ll either have to start paying for childcare (which costs about $9,000 a year in Los Angeles, for instance) or one of us will have to take a break from being part of the workforce, something more parents and, moms especially, have already had to do during the pandemic.

As I write this article at night as my child sleeps, I’ve just spent the morning at the beach with my family.I choose when I work and when I’m off the clock. Over the past two years, I’ve had the chance to work with over 30 different brands and publications, and during that time no single company I’ve worked with has made up more than about one-fourth of my income, let alone 100% of it.

I’m certainly not a misclassified employee. I’m happily self employed, and that’s how I hope things can stay.

I’m in favor of advancing workers’ rights, and hope the PRO Act can be updated to ensure freelancers who want to remain autonomous can do so.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I made nearly $10,000 last month doing freelance voice-over work. I get 90% of my work through Fiverr and work just five hours a day – here’s how I do it.

Alice Everdeen
Alice Everdeen is a freelancer based in Texas.

  • Alice Everdeen is a 29-year-old voice-over artist based in Austin, Texas.
  • After years working in radio and TV, Everdeen quit her full-time job and now can make thousands a week as a freelancer.
  • This is what her job is like, as told to freelance writer Rose Maura Lorre.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

I launched my full-time voice-over career just last year, but even as a kid, I was always doing voice work in some way. I would constantly mimic the people I heard in commercials and on the radio and I made tons of prank phone calls, but I never really thought about it as something I could do as a career.

I went to Rutgers University to study journalism and visual arts. After working at MSNBC and a local news station for several years, I moved to Texas in 2016. There, I eventually switched over to a production company where I wrote and produced TV and radio ads.

One day, I was going over a client’s script with my colleagues. Just as a joke, I read the script out loud in the most over-the-top radio voice I could think of. They stopped and stared at me; then they said, “Wow, that was really good!”

I started doing voice-overs for the company and realized it was really fun.

I also think it also helped that I’m a very animated person and I enunciate well.

Then around January 2020, right before the pandemic, I was going through a divorce and felt unhappy going to work for nine hours a day. I told myself, “I’m going to quit my job, start freelancing, buy a school bus, and I’m going to travel.”

I made my own voice-over demo reel and made a profile on Fiverr and things surprisingly took off.

One of the first clients I got was Fiverr itself. I know they will hire new members to give them some credibility, so I think they just saw that I was new and they liked my demo. Now I book probably 90% of my work through Fiverr, where other companies will find me for their clients. I’ve done VOs for companies like, Valvoline, Community Coffee, Verizon, Accenture, and Amazon.

I always ask potential clients a few questions before accepting the job.

Alice Everdeen
Everdeen says she practices each script several times before recording.

I ask how long the script is, what’s the audience and tone they’re going for, and whether or not the recording has to meet certain time requirements. My voice-overs typically run anywhere from 15 seconds to three minutes, but I’ve done some audio (usually for e-learning projects) that was as long as 20 minutes.

Generally, I practice a script a couple times and record it as many as four times, depending on how comfortable I am with the style and subject. Medical or technical copy can take me way longer. Then comes editing, which takes forever. I usually spend four times as long on editing as I do on recording, because I have to remove breaths, gaps, mess-ups, etc. I spend about 10% of my time practicing scripts, 30% recording them, and 60% editing the recording.

I’ve spent over $1,000 on equipment to produce the best quality voice-overs.

I work with a Rode NT USB mic, which costs about $170, and then I have a dinky HP laptop that I bought about a year ago. I definitely should have bought a more powerful one, but for now it gets the job done.

I also bought myself an Isovox, which is a soundproofed, square-shaped box you shove your head into. It’s super claustrophobic, but it makes my audio sound pretty great. I use a program called Audacity to edit my work.

Due to COVID-19, there are tons of phone recording jobs these days.

Alice Everdeen Isovox
Everdeen recording inside her Isovox.

About 20% of my orders nowadays talk about safety precautions or mention COVID directly. Pretty much every company needs a new outgoing message saying, “Thank you for calling blah-blah. Here are the precautions we’re taking,” or, “We offer pick-ups and deliveries, etc.”

These are probably the most boring jobs, because they’re just so straightforward. Personally, my favorite assignments are when I get to feel like I’m acting and I can really get into a character.

Taking care of my voice is something I try not to be a diva about. Mainly, I just stay hydrated. I try not to record in the morning, when I sound congested and nasally. I also avoid recording when I’m tired or angry, because that’ll come through in my vocal quality.

I sometimes get weird and even creepy requests.

I’ve occasionally received requests from people (almost all of them men) for fetish-related “audio porn” although since I’ve raised my prices it’s gotten better. People will ask for burping recordings, or that I record the sound of myself being tickled. Somebody else asked me if I could simulate the sound of getting a wedgie while also talking about how the wedgie feels and how much I hate getting wedgies. I respond to those requests with, “I’m not interested, but good luck.”

As a freelancer, I’ve already surpassed my old full-time income. In January, I had my best week ever when I made about $3,300. February was my best month to date – I made just under $10,000 total. And even on my busiest days, I’m still only working from about 12 to 5 p.m. The amount of free time this career allows has been the biggest blessing, as it’s given me and my partner time to work on refurbishing our school bus.

Alice Everdeen
Everdeen and her partner are currently refurbishing an old school bus to make it road trip-ready.

If you want to get into this line of work, my advice is to work on your acting.

Even if you have a nice voice, doing voice-overs is really about being an actor more than anything. You have to be able to sound compelling and convincing.

There are websites specifically for finding voice-over work, like Voices.com, Voices123, and VoiceBunny. I went the Fiverr route because I’d used it in my previous lines of work. You can definitely land bigger jobs on the voice-over websites, whereas a lot of the Fiverr and Upwork roles are more for mom-and-pop places. I’ve had my share of big clients, but most of my work is for smaller companies.

You’re going to get a lot of rejections at the start, especially if you go the more traditional route of auditioning for roles. While I don’t audition for the work I get via Fiverr, I’m also on Upwork, where I audition for roles and lose a lot of them. You can do something you think is perfect and other people hate it. It’s hard sometimes, but I’ve learned to just power through and continually improve.

Read the original article on Business Insider

5 tough lessons I learned as a novice freelancer that cost me thousands in potential earnings

Mary Kearl
Mary Kearl.

  • Mary Kearl is a professional freelance writer and marketing consultant.
  • When she first began freelancing, Kearl says she made mistakes that cost her thousands in lost potential income.
  • Now, she asks for partial deposits from new clients, confirms rates and budgets upfront, and avoids unpaid tests.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

I began my freelancing career while I was still a journalism undergrad and held numerous side gigs throughout my 20s and early 30s as I climbed the ladder in social media, content, and marketing roles. Finally, at 32 I decided to leave my full-time career behind to give freelance writing and marketing consulting a try. 

Initially, my goal was simply to travel with my family for a year while working remotely to help offset the cost of visiting 12 countries. But once I got the taste of being able to set my own hours, choose my clients and projects, and determine my own rates, I was hooked. 

Of course, it wasn’t – and still isn’t – always easy. I’m continuously learning how to run my business more efficiently, to set both my clients and myself up for success.

Along the way, I’ve definitely had some challenges. Here are some of the key financial lessons I’ve learned, that cost me thousands of dollars in wasted time and potential lost income,my advice for avoiding these kinds of issues altogether. 

1. Not seeking out partial payment upfront for new smaller clients

Many of my initial freelance gigs were with major companies, such as Adobe, Zillow, and Target, with formal processes for handling everything from freelance contracts to the invoicing and payment process. While everything was largely on their terms (not mine), I almost never had to worry about chasing down payments. 

It wasn’t until I began branching out to work with smaller companies, startups, and solopreneurs that I learned the hard way what I needed to do to ensure I’d be fairly paid. 

One of the most important lessons: Whenever possible, when onboarding new, smaller clients, I ask for a 50% deposit upfront for the first project before I begin working. 

I began to do this late in 2019, after I’d created a social media strategy, a content calendar, and social media posts for a startup marketing agency client who ghosted me. First, the project was put on hold. Next, my contact stopped responding to my calls and emails about the project and invoicing for the work I’d done. Then the in-house email they’d created for me stopped working. I tried various routes to track down payment, to no avail.

This may be an extreme example, but if I’d asked for a partial payment upfront I’d have $1,000 extra dollars – at least 50% pay for the work I completed. 

Since then, I now ask for deposits upfront. In an initial introductory call, I say something along the lines of, “My terms for kicking off new projects with new clients include a 50% payment upfront before I begin working on the assignment.”

Now that I ask for partial payments upfront, I’m a lot less worried about getting paid and can focus on producing high-quality work. 

2. Participating in multiple rounds of interviews before confirming budget and rates

When I first started freelancing, I had mixed success securing work with new clients. Some knew what they were looking for, what they were willing to pay, and that their needs and budget aligned well with my skills and compensation expectations. 

For others, it seemed like I had to jump through a series of hoops – calls, test projects,, and writing proposals – before I even could find out if I was a good fit. And most times after investing this time upfront, I simply never heard back.

For one B2B startup that was looking for social media support, I went through four rounds of interviews and completed an unpaid content strategy test. In total, I probably spent six to 10 hours pursuing this client before they ultimately went with someone else who charged less.

These days whenever I get in contact with a potential new client, I thank them for their interest and ask them about their budget right away before even getting on a call. Here’s a sample reply I’ve used to save myself and potential clients time and quickly eliminate opportunities that aren’t a fit:

Hi [Name],

Thanks for reaching out and for your kind words. The opportunity to collaborate with [Company name] sounds exciting, and I’d be interested in learning more about the chance to help out with your needs. Can you share what budget you have in mind [for XYZ project] to make sure we’re in the same range? 

Thanks!

3. Doing unpaid tests instead of paid test projects or sharing my most relevant samples 

After years of freelancing, I now better recognize the value of my time, experience, and capabilities. As a result, I only pursue opportunities with clients who will accept my most relevant samples or are willing to pay me for a trial project. 

Completing paid tests helps me land steady copywriting and content marketing work, and also helps me get a feel for whether the projects are a fit for my interests and skills. 

Even if you’re just getting started, you can create sample work for your own website or social media. Platforms like Medium are great ways to demonstrate knowledge of a particular topic or in-demand skill and may even generate inbound leads after people see your work. 

4. Not sharing the most relevant work samples

When I’m chatting with a potential new client, I try to share with them the most relevant examples of my past work. I drill down to samples that highlight my experience with a similar:

  • Type of company (whether a B2B business, B2C brand, nonprofit, etc.)
  • Size company (such as startup versus corporate)
  • Type of skill or service they’re looking for
  • Industry 

For instance, if a company is a mid-size B2C brand in the wellness space looking for general marketing support, I can share samples from my time working for two healthcare startups, marketing for three health publications, and serving as the social media lead at the New York City Marathon. 

The more niche a company is, the greater relevance and industry expertise they’re usually looking for. 

5. Being too generic when pitching to new clients

“I’m a seasoned [freelancer offering XYZ general skills] with X years of experience who has worked for XYZ well-known [but general] companies, and I’d like to help [name of company].” 

That’s an OK pitch, but with some simple tweaks it could be a lot more effective.

After all, potential clients don’t all necessarily care about the work you’ve done for just any other company, no matter how much you name drop or refer to your number of years of experience. That’s because just like any other type of customer, they don’t want to be sold on your product features

Instead, they want to be sold on the benefits of your product – that is, the benefits of working with you as a freelancer – and be assured that you’re the best person to meet their needs. So, flip your pitch from being focused on you and your general experience, and instead center it on the company’s specific needs and how your expertise matches up.

Generic pitches similar to the one above have cost me landing paying clients, so I’ve updated my pitch to ensure I’m focusing on the specific needs of the customer, not just stating accomplishments to be impressive. Here’s what I say now:

Hi Name,

I see that [Company] is looking for [specific type of freelancer] with an understanding of [industry niche, such as SaaS] and [specific skills, such as content strategy] I’d be happy to help with your [specific needs]!

I have worked with [well-known companies within a given niche] and have [specific skills you’re looking for]. Here are samples of my work [specific to the company, industry, niche, and skills desired]. 

Thanks for the chance to collaborate!

Read the original article on Business Insider

7 signs you’re rich, even if it doesn’t feel like it

business woman
  • “Rich” doesn’t necessarily mean owning a huge mansion or taking luxury vacations.
  • You’re wealthy if you can afford to save money every month and are on track to retire when you want to.
  • Another sign you’re wealthy is being able to make choices based on what you want, not just your financial needs.
  • Visit Personal Finance Insider’s homepage for more stories.

“Rich” is relative.

Maybe you think it means being in the top 1% of earners in some of the wealthiest cities in the US. Maybe it means being able to buy a flashy mansion or spend your life flitting from luxury vacation to luxury vacation.

But former investment banker Kristin Addis told Insider she feels richer earning about 40% of her previous six-figure salary while she travels the world. Nick and Dariece Swift, who also left their jobs to make a fraction of their former income, said they’re happier earning less. The self-made millionaire stars of “West Texas Investor’s Club” say their relationships are more valuable than the money they earn.

Ultimately, “rich” can be just as subjective as “happy” – it’s different for everyone. However, there are a few universal indications of wealth, no matter how you view it.

1. You can save money

“Most people fail to realize that in life, it’s not how much money you make. It’s how much money you keep,” writes Robert Kiyosaki in “Rich Dad Poor Dad.”

At the end of the day, money does not solve financial problems – in fact, it often exacerbates them. Consider the lottery winners who lost it all within a few years, or the professional athletes who made millions in their 20s and wound up broke.

“Money often makes obvious our tragic human flaws, putting a spotlight on what we don’t know,” says Kiyosaki. “That is why, all too often, a person who comes into a sudden windfall of cash – let’s say an inheritance, a pay raise, or lottery winnings – soon returns to the same financial mess, if not worse, than the mess they were in before.” 

If you can hold on to a portion of the money you earn, you’re in good shape.

2. You can live comfortably below your means

Living below your means is one of the major tenets of responsible money management: spending less than you earn, however much that may be.

Self-made billionaire Anthony Hsieh told Insider that learning to live within his means was a lesson he learned from his parents, who immigrated to the US from Taiwan.

The habit “has helped me quite a bit and that’s one of the reasons I’ve survived and flourished in consumer lending for 30 years,” he said. “My career spans four different economic and housing cycles and I’m still sitting at the table as a key executive in consumer lending. I think part of that is my discipline of making certain that the company and myself don’t overspend.”

Living within your means might not sound like a big deal if you’re already doing it, but not everyone can manage. A 2019 report released by GOBankingRates found that a third of Americans surveyed are living paycheck to paycheck.

3. You will eventually be able to pay for the things you really want 

If you can go out and buy a yacht in cash today, most people would agree that you’re rich. However, if you can go out and buy that same yacht five years from now after setting a savings goal and socking away money on a monthly or annual basis, guess what? You’re probably still rich.

Survey after survey turns up the same dispiriting result: Americans aren’t saving all that much. The same GOBankingRates survey reported that 45% of respondents had no household savings, and an estimated 40 million households have no retirement savings whatsoever.

Which brings us to our next point …

4. You’re going to be able to afford to retire as planned

Retirement is expensive. Experts say that to live lavishly in retirement, you need to replace about 70%-80% of your current income (although that number is disputed). Even if you’ve downsized, and maybe even relocated to an area with a low cost of living, retirement is still a prolonged period of supporting yourself on little or no income. 

Traditionally, “retirement age” is 65, but that’s changing as more Americans find they’re unable to float 20-plus years of living without a paycheck. Data from a 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics report found that nearly 20% of Americans age 65 and older are still working.

If you can afford to retire when you want to, it’s a luxury.

5. You aren’t motivated purely by money

One common thread you’ll find among self-made millionaires and those who study them is that “rich people” tend to focus on something other than the dollar signs: They’re solving a problem, or following a passion, or striving to build their business as much as possible.

That, right there, is a luxury. If you can’t make ends meet, you can bet you’ll be focusing on the dollar signs over the intellectual fulfillment of your job.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be happy to earn a sizable paycheck or you can’t be excited to watch your investments grow, but money isn’t your chief motivator or source of joy. If you have the luxury to focus on something other than the money, you’re in a good place.

6. You view money as an ally

“Most people have a dysfunctional, adversarial relationship with money,” writes self-made millionaire Steve Siebold. “After all, we are taught that money is scarce – hard to earn and harder to keep. If you want to start attracting money, stop seeing it as your enemy and think of it as one of your greatest allies.”

The reason wealthy people earn more wealth is because they’re not afraid to admit that money can solve most problems, Siebold says: “[The middle class] sees money as a never-ending necessary evil that must be endured as part of life. The world class sees money as the great liberator, and with enough of it, they are able to purchase financial peace of mind.”

If you aren’t scared of money – if you view it as an ally, and a tool that can help you achieve what you want in life – you’re ahead of the game.

7. You aren’t stuck

“What I have realized over time is that in many ways, money spells freedom,” self-made millionaire and NastyGal founder Sophia Amoruso wrote in her book, “#GIRLBOSS.” She continued:

“If you learn to control your finances, you won’t find yourself stuck in jobs, places, or relationships that you hate just because you can’t afford to go elsewhere. … Being in a good spot financially can open up so many doors. Being in a bad spot can slam them in your face.”

Kathleen Elkins contributed reporting.

Related Content Module: More Personal Finance Coverage

Read the original article on Business Insider

Earn Money as a Virtual Santa

Reading Time: 4 mins

This year’s been a tough one – but you can still make money before it finishes! With most Santa’s Grottos closed this year, you can snap up the opportunity to make money as a virtual Santa, instead. Here’s how to earn cash in the next few weeks!

  1. What Is a Virtual Santa?
  2. What You Need to Be a Virtual Santa
  3. How to Market Your Service
  4. Getting Paid
  5. More Ways to Make Money

What Is a Virtual Santa?

Being a virtual Santa could nab extra cash in time for Christmas

Virtual Santa does the same job as an in-real-life one – except on Zoom! Lots of families will miss out on visiting Santa’s Grotto experiences this year, but still want to entertain their children. That’s where Virtual Santa comes in.

You’ll host a unique video call with the family to talk to their children and give them a special message from Santa. You can choose how long you want each call to be, and set your rate accordingly. Some Virtual Santas have set up entire grottos in their homes, garages, or office spaces to really add to the experience, too!

What You Need to Be a Virtual Santa

This is a no-experience-necessary type of job. However, if you have any experience as an actor, or previously as an in-person Santa, that could really help!

You need to:

  • Be confident talking to strangers
  • Have a great knack for communicating with young children
  • Be able to stay in character for the whole video call

As for the equipment you need, it’s very simple! The basics you need to become a virtual Santa include:

  1. A Santa suit!
  2. Reliable internet connection
  3. Decorations for your background
  4. A high-quality webcam and microphone
  5. Access to reliable video call software like Zoom
  6. A diary like Calendly so people can book their call slot.

If you want to go all out, consider roping in a friend to play the part of Santa’s Elf, too!

When you’re taking bookings, it’s a good idea to ask the children’s names on the booking form. This way, you can greet your customers by name as soon as the call starts – which is a great way to play into the “Santa knows everything” ploy!

Finally, if you want to look professional and encourage more sign-ups, consider creating a website using a service such as Wix or WordPress.

Tax and Being Santa

Even Santa pays his taxes! If you’ve not earned anything else through self-employment this year, you may not need to register with HMRC as self-employed. Why? Well, this is a side earner – it’s unlikely to net you over the personal allowance of £1,000 a year that can be made before you must declare it.

However, if you make more than £1,000 – or you have other self-employed activities in this tax year (either completed or coming up before April), you must register as self-employed with HMRC. You might be doing your virtual Santa gig while on furlough or working reduced hours with your day job – you’ll definitely need to let HMRC know about your second income if this is the case. It could impact your tax code.

How to Market Your Virtual Santa Service

The great thing about being a virtual Santa is that you don’t need a fancy website to get started. It does help, though, to have a social media profile or two to get started with your marketing.

There are lots of ways you can tell people about your Santa Service, including:

  1. Post on local Facebook groups
  2. Use the NextDoor app to tell local people about your service
  3. Tell your friends and family
  4. Contact local charities and groups – if you offer some free sessions in return, they will help promote you!
  5. Get in touch with local nurseries and primary schools
  6. You could even find your local parish newsletter for an advert!

It’s also worth getting in touch with colleagues, posting on other social media such as Twitter, and you could even make a TikTok video!

Getting Paid as Santa

How to get paid as a virtual Santa

The most important thing is to make sure you’re paid for your service. With something like a Virtual Santa job, the amount you’re charging is relatively small. For a ten-minute call, most people would be willing to pay around £5-£10 depending on what you’re offering in the call. If, for example, you and your Elf will sing a Christmas song to entertain your young customers, you could charge at the upper end of this range.

As it’s not a lot of money in each transaction, get payment up front before the call. Once someone is booked into your calendar, send them a Paypal link or your payment details. Make sure you keep a spreadsheet of your bookings, payments, and amount earned. You’ll need this information to report to HMRC for tax purposes!

Getting payment in advance helps guarantee commitment from your customers. They’re more likely to actually turn up to the call if they’ve already handed money over! However, as you know you’re dealing with families with young children, do understand if your customer doesn’t join the call when they’re supposed to. If they apologise with a legitimate reason – including toddler tantrums causing delays! – try to reschedule if you can. Those who simply don’t turn up… well, that’s their loss!

More Ways to Earn Money This Christmas

There are plenty of ways you can earn money from home this Christmas, from passive income streams to tutoring online. Try these articles for inspiration:

The post Earn Money as a Virtual Santa appeared first on MoneyMagpie.