Friday, May 6, 2011

Self-Employment in Tucson: Making Working for Yourself Work

Posted By on Fri, May 6, 2011 at 9:17 AM

Marketing 101: Signs work well on street corners.

Tucson is a great place to be self-employed — as long as you can make it work.

These wonderful words of wisdom came from an ambitious and creative woman who started her own pet publication a few years back. It rocked. It ruled. It ran one of my stories and several of my doggie horoscopes.

Its print edition and website are now both defunct.

I’ve become intimate with self-employment in the field of writing and art since leaving my full-time gig in December. Making self-employment work is definitely the tough part of the equation, although it can be done with enough savvy, ambition — and adequate sleep. It also helps to remain positive.

Before we continue, we must clear up the difference between self-employment and unemployment. Unemployment lets you sit around and collect a government check. Self-employment works your butt off, possibly making less than you would with that government check, while paying astronomic taxes on the whole deal.

The self-employment blues run in a monthly cycle, not unlike another monthly cycle that leaves many pained, cranky and wanting to vomit. With self-employment, the early part of the month kicks off with glee, ambition and a fresh calendar to stock with all types of fun assignments.

Week one cranks by at a typing speed of 135 wpm, several juicy PayPal deposits and a fresh perspective. Then the same old assignments get boring.

I was lucky enough to latch onto a website that offers a never-ending supply of assignments, or at about 215,165 last time I checked. The assignments, like much of freelance writing these days, don’t pay enough to buy a Cadillac on their own, but they can add up if you crank out at least 25 or so of those babies each week.

Cranking, by week two, leaves you with the beginnings of that pained and cranky feeling mentioned earlier. Here’s where you branch out to other freelance sites, some that are free and others that cost half your mortgage to join and bid on jobs. The variety is spicy, for sure, but the jobs can really stink.

As with much of the world and its outsourcing, you end up bidding on writing assignments against non-native English speakers somewhere in India who are jubilant to earn 22 cents for 500 words or post and hourly rate of a single dollar. You watch them get many of the gigs.

You go back to cranking for the Cadillac.

By week two, your typing has slowed to barely 82 wpm, but you’re still doing OK on the PayPal deposits. You try to find assignments that are similar to ones you’ve already completed so you have less to research. “How to Safely Use a Treadmill.” “What Makes a Treadmill Safe.” “Are Treadmills Dangerous?”

On treadmill overload, you go back to the freelance sites to compete against all of India.

By week three, you are burning out. Thankfully, art gigs come through periodically—work that doesn’t seem like work at all. Two dog caricatures, two address signs, and a funky, bright pink pig later, you’ve made enough to cover the time you spent napping just to avoid the treadmill articles. You even have time to send out those book proposals and cartoon samples you compiled in week one.

While you were outside making your art, however, you noticed the backyard looks kind of shabby.

This means week four is pretty much spent working on your yard. You must suddenly reseed your lawn, repaint your patio and rearrange yard art that has been in the same position since late 2007.

PayPal starts going in reverse. Instead of hefty deposits coming in, you have money going out to buy fertilizer, concrete primer, new vines for the back fence and bright-pink spray paint, although you have a yen to simply paint everything black.

Here’s where your gratitude list kicks in. Since your boyfriend has been incredibly supportive, yet is surely very sick of all your moaning, you need to focus on the massive benefits of self-employment rather than the brain drain you feel from writing about the little red treadmill safety keys.

You get work in your pajamas (although some folks do that at the office). You get to be with your dogs all day. You save gas money, time and frustration avoiding that mess on the roads that’s called Tucson traffic. You get home-cooked meals, instant access to the fridge and all the cool music played on morning KXCI.

Your yard is immaculate; your patio is slick; and you’ve become a veritable expert — a walking encyclopedia — on the hazards and safety of the treadmill.

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