A belated happy 19th anniversary to me! Nineteen years ago, as a wee lass of 24 years old, I quit my magazine editing job to give freelancing a shot. If not then, when? And if I failed, I told myself (and my nervous parents), I’d just get another job. And yet, I’m still here.
I tried to think of 19 things I’ve learned since then, but my brain is flat (and maybe I’ll save that to do 20 things at 20 years). But overall in most of the ideas I brainstormed, one kept coming to the top.
No one is going to care about you being paid fairly, and on time, as much as you.
Of course there are people who want to help you. I’ve had dozens of editors go to bat for me when it came to paying me more than the initial offer, and in tracking down a late check. But at the end of the day, the onus to make those things happen is on you.
That means you have to keep asking for more money, whether that’s requesting an editor to bump up the initial offer, or ask for a raise — to give the editor a chance to ask the money people on your behalf.
This also means tracking payments, and that if someone is late paying you, or trying to stiff you, you have to be ready to pull out the (proverbial) “Where’s My Money” bat, without hesitation. That might mean going over your editor’s head to their boss, accounts payable, or the publisher/CEO if need be.
I know this is hard for a lot of people, myself included. I still get a little knotted up when I have to chase a late check (though it happens less often now that I refuse to continue working with problem clients).
My best advice is to create a persona, and have that person do the demanding for you.
I don’t mean create a new identity with a new email address, but more of a tweak of your self, which you probably do already but may not realize it. For example: my name is Jen Miller to most people, Jennifer Miller to the government, and Jenny Miller to my parents, aunts and uncles. But Jen A. Miller is my professional persona. Jen A. Miller is more confident than me, a faster runner than me, and looks better in hats. She is also a better business person. I can put on that version of me when I’m asking for a raise, or where my money is, because it doesn’t bother her (where I might cringe a bit inside).
I even bought a hat with an “A” on it that I sometimes put on when I wanted to summon the strength and confidence of my “other” self. It sounds silly but it works! As does practice and time. The more you get used to advocating for yourself, the easier it is, even if it’s not your favorite part of your freelance life.
That said, I had to follow up on late payment on Friday. I had been paid for my last two invoices of the year, but not the third to last — and because no one cares about me getting paid as much as me, I’m the one who noticed. I’d never had a problem with this client before, so didn’t think it was nefarious. My editor responded immediately with an apology and explanation of what happened (a simple goof – which happens!), and that they were going to rush through payment. How he responded means I’ll keep writing for them.
Jen Miller is relieved. Jen A. Miller is pleased.
“Will 2024 be the year of tinned fish?” for Responsible Seafood Advocate
“3 insights into how Gen Z manages people” for HR Dive
“HR’s domains have expanded — but HR pros feel they are left behind” for HR Dive
“Penicillin: From limited wonder drug to world lifesaver” for Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory
“High prices are slowing for road builders, but challenges lay ahead” for Construction Dive
What I’m Reading
I used to review books on my book blog, which I have suspended for this year to work on a novel (that again I may never finish, and even if I do, may not sell). So shorter reviews will go here.
- Basket Case by Carl Hiaasen. You can’t go wrong with a Hiaasen tale, which I read because I thought I would be in Florida last week (still planning to go, just pushed the trip back). In this yarn, an obituary writer sets out to write a piece about a dead rock star who allegedly drowned while scuba diving. Or was he murdered? You can probably guess, and it’s a lot of fun to ride along as another cast of Florida Man and Woman type characters try to figure it out.
- Library for the War Wounded by Monika Helfer. A slim book of recollections from the point of view of a daughter looking back on her life, part of which was spent growing up in a resort in the Australian Alps that provided respite to soldiers wounded during World War II. It’s labeled as fiction, but inspired by the author’s family.
- China Rich Girlfriend by Kevan Kwan. This is the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians. It was fine, though the spending feels more obnoxious than fun now than when the book was published in 2015.
What I’m Watching
- Murder in Boston. Infuriating three part documentary that examines racism in Boston through one murder. I learned a lot, and wanted to throw things at the same time. It’s on HBO, or whatever we’re supposed to be calling it these days.
- What If…? The second season of Marvel’s animated series that asks what if X happened instead of Y. I liked this season better than the first, mostly because there was more cohesion between the episodes. Also, I know it probably won’t happen, but phew I would love a Captain Carter movie.
- The Chelsea Detective. Gotta love our cantankerous British detectives — and a “season” of three 1.5 hour episodes. This is on AcornTV.
- Call the Midwife Holiday Special 2023. Per usual with Call the Midwife, I cried a lot. I think it’s engineered to produce maximum tears. I’m jealous that you can all watch the new season in the UK! I’ll have to wait until they hit PBS.
- Maestro. I’m trying to see all the Oscar contenders, which is why I flipped this on. It was…okay. I liked Carrie Mulligan’s performance more than Bradley Cooper’s. It also made me want to walk around while talking on a rotary phone.
- The Madame Blanc Mysteries Christmas Special 2023. Sheesh, we really need to get on the tradition of making Christmas specials in the U.S. In yet another British mystery series, but this one set in a fictional town on the coast of France, the whole gang heads up to a mountain retreat for the holiday and — you guessed it! — MURDER. The tone is lighter here than the Chelsea Detective, but I love them both (and it’s also on AcornTV).
- May December. Another one in the “trying to watch all the Oscar contenders.” I know that this is the filmmaker’s style, which is his right! But maybe not quite for me.
- Past Lives. I was surprised that I didn’t fall head over heels in love with this one, because most people whose taste I trust did. It’s a lovely movie, for sure, but it didn’t rip my heart apart, maybe because I don’t often think about what could have been with a former flame.
- For All Mankind (season 4). I love the MOON/MARS show, which starts by asking what would have happened if Russia got to the moon first? Season four was an uneven one, but still enjoyable. It’s an extremely bingeable show, if you’re looking for something to watch during this cold snap.
- Killers of the Flower Moon. Yes, it’s 3.5 hours long, but it didn’t feel so bad watching it at home, because I could take breaks. During one of those breaks, I pulled out the diary I kept during my 2017 road trip to see the 18 states I hadn’t been to yet. In Oklahoma, I visited the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, and this is what the pamphlet I took with me on a self-guided hike.
At the time, I didn’t know the full story of the Osage Murders, but I still remember stopping in the middle of the trail and thinking “….the [redacted]?” How’d those parcels shift, Nature Conservancy??
Anyway, watch the movie. It’s a story that needs to be told, for these reasons. And if you’re ever in Oklahoma City, make sure to stop at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and Dead People’s Stuff, which is the coolest architectural salvage store I’ve ever been to (and yes, some of their items were in Killers of the Flower Moon).
Until next time!
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