Get me outta here!

The GiG Economy

photo of a woman thinking

In this virtual age many millennials, and boomers get their jobs done on a gig or freelance basis.  Decades ago when I first worked in advertising, many illustrators, creative people worked on a freelance contract.  No benefits.  Now a days, with IT and the internet connecting people across the globe while sitting at their desk, or on their sofa, gigs are done by many different specialties.  Online work portals such as Freelancer, and Upwork (formerly elance and oDesk) have hot IT, Coding, WEB design, as well as sales and marketing, gigs available for those who sign on.  Basically companies will post a job description and freelancers apply and bid for the jobs.  This also enables clients to preview profiles of needed skilled freelancers and invite them privately to apply to a job. Now, while $4 an hour in the Philipines, and parts of Asia will get the job done,  here in the good ol’ USA we need a tad more to get by.

Jobs are categorized by Entry Level, Intermediate, and Expert levels indicating how much the client is willing to pay and what level of skills they will choose.  Healthy competition is always good, it keeps you on your toes.  But, when it comes down to pay levels, if a client really wants an experienced professional with actual big company experience, or key SEO and coding skills they will pay more.

On that note I’ve learned a thing or two over the years from working in-house, and as a freelancer.

Don’t Compromise Your Hourly Fee. Lessons I’ve learned tell me that the only time I will compromise on a fair hourly or monthly project fee is for a legitimate and needy non-profit. When you have to remind your client weekly that you are doing more work than you are getting paid to do because they are changing goals as you go you need to rethink the contract. Let’s say on initial conversations before any agreement was reached for work to begin, you give them advice about the trends in industry and, inside information only an experienced expert like yourself would know. This happens often. You tell them about social media opportunities or industry trade opportunities that you are aware of and perhaps even educate them to their industry insiders, but you have no agreement to do work for them at that point. Then, they say who? If a CEO, Founder or otherwise senior person in a business you are proposing work for doesn’t know what is going on in their own playing field, and you just educated them to that point – the value is priceless. Priceless to you because it tells you that they aren’t into their own industry that pays their bills, and has the exact exposure they need. Priceless to them for showing what industry knowledge is, and how far-reaching it can be, not to mention some possible leads they hadn’t thought about. The real worth of industry knowledge can well be beyond any hourly fee.

For more insight, hope and inspiration in the gig economy and small biz in general check out Barry Moltz podcast on Blog Talk radio – I posted the link below.  He’s written a couple of books – latest being Getting Unstuck check it out at Barry Molz and is a small business expert appearing on TV, having his own podcast on Blog Talk Radio, (Insanity Talk Radio as he calls it) and, business book author. I met him years ago in Stamford, CT at a small business roundtable and find his insight, sense of humor  and messages just the right pick me up.

He gets expert guests, such as this one with Marion McGovern to elaborate on the latest topics that come up in doing business every day.   Small Business Talk Radio

Let me know how it goes and keep gigging!

Advertisements

This I know to be true…Working in a Competitive Business World

Oprah exacts on “This I know to be true…” and it varies on the topic but the purpose is to speak the truth, or her truth and share with others her knowledge. As a licensed Real Estate Agent I have had the opportunity to meet many people across the financial divide over the past eight years. Some were struggling some were not. Dealing with the public is very different from being in a business to business scenario such as public relations consultant. In that role I’m dealing with business owners, agency personnel who need to get their message out to the world or a part of it. I’m frequently hired to help them make their message, be heard, seen, and increase recognition of their product, service, or brand in a positive way. Media relations, writing, messaging, content, social media and strategy, sometimes planning speaking opportunities too, are key parts to the work I do. I’m paid hourly or upfront in a retainer for monthly based work. I work from a distance most of the time, virtually or remote, and don’t meet my clients in person usually over the phone, Skype or other online conferencing.

As a Realtor I help people buy, sell, market their real estate properties in person. No money is transferred up front. When a home sells, the commission a Realtor gets is paid out of the proceed of the sale. No sale – no pay. You could spend weeks, even months promoting a property or helping people find that ideal home for themselves and they simply walk away from finishing the deal. Many reasons are attributable, but that is part of the job, that’s the truth. It’s not a job for everyone, it’s more competitive than you know, not just with another agency but with colleagues, other independent contractors in your own agency. Some agents are more truthful than others. I’m direct, No B.S. Some rely on volume and persistence in pursuing their next listing. I’m strategic and can get your home in the media at no additional cost – That’s ADDED Value to the buyer and seller. Most days are not like on Million Dollar Listing, especially the price points and commissions. Sometimes the rivalries can be similar but, there are more female agents.

Here are some other truths to being a Realtor:

  1. Recommend and Referrals. Referrals are part of the business. Past happy clients are the best reference.  If Your Relatives, Close friends, Don’t Recommend You, They Undermine Your business. When there are 200 agents to choose from within a 35 mile radius, you are either helping to grow your relatives business or you are hurting it. You basically are saying ” I want this other person to get money, not you, my relative.” Would you do this to your own/sister or brother? Not okay. Referrals and other methods can be used if there’s a personality conflict.
  2. Familiarity Breeds Contempt. Your lifelong Neighbor chooses another agent to sell their home. This hurts. Happens for many reasons, such as: “Well, I know the other agent they live next to my sister.” The other agent doesn’t have a family history with your neighbor, and that may be why the other agent got the job. Sometimes, neighbors may like you, but they don’t want you to know all their finances. Also, the other agent persistently reaches out to them giving them falsehoods about the industry, other agents, and lying to them about the probable sale price of the home. Unethical-Yes. Is that against Realtor ethics -Yes. Happens too often.
  3. Marketing Matters. There are MLS systems throughout the country but if you know how to market off MLS you have a leg up. If you can write, pitch the media on your new listing, or the history of the area a home happens to be in – score more points in servicing your clients. Writing, copy on the listing matters as do photographs. Getting your home into the media, online, print, etc, gets my buyers more value in the home they are looking, certainly gets the seller more eyes looking at it, AND is part of my customer service. Paying for ads that people don’t act on isn’t always winning.
  4. Pricing Matters. I’ve managed $50 million plus at my first job out of college working as a Network Negotiator on a very large account – Proctor and Gamble at what was one of the largest advertising agencies in the world – DMB&B. I never lost $5 of their money and increased their ad values along the way. I can analyze current inventory and price a home correctly. It is up to the owner in the end to agree or not agree. But, if a home doesn’t get offers in 3 months of being listed and the home shows well, no other major obstacles, it is the price.
  5. Be A Professional.  You will need to get along with all kinds of people. If you are not a people person, it’s not the business for you.  Being ethical and following your own integrity is part of any business professional out there-whether you work for yourself or someone else. If your gut is bothered by what you see, hear, speak up and tell the truth. Passive aggressive behavior doesn’t happen in the business world as much as the personal. But, if your business is with the consumer directly prepare to be direct and confront communication traps head on.  Let it go and move forward. Just don’t forget.

The Little Tree, a Christmas Story

One day in early December a little girl set out to buy a Christmas tree. She wanted her family to have it for Christmas night. This was a special time in their home where they would decorate the tree together as a family. This year her mom had become ill and the family was not doing all the things they normally did at this time of year including buying a live tree. Sara, the little girl, went out to a few of the tree farms that set up shop during December to sell trees in her town. Trees For U was her first stop. Sara saw many trees but the price tags were expensive. $30, $40, $50 for a tree! Sara had only $10 to spend on this Christmas tree. She walked onto the next tree farm. XMAS TREES, said the sign at the entrance. She saw some smaller trees but their prices were high too. One of the workers on the tree farm came over to her to ask if she was lost. “No”, said Sara, I am looking to buy a tree.” “Great”, said Greg whose name was sewn onto the front of his jacket. “But, I only have ten dollars with me, said Sara, can I buy a tree for ten dollars?” Greg said, “That’s going to be tough. Why are you alone here, doesn’t your family want a tree too?” Sara looked down at the ground and began to feel sad. She told Greg how her mom had been sick this year and the family, her Dad and older brother were not doing the things they normally did at Christmastime. No one was decorating the house or the lawn. No one was playing Christmas music either. She used to dance around the dining room table to all the fun Christmas songs. So she said she decided to make everyone happy by going out on her own to buy the Christmas tree. “It will be a nice surprise”, said Greg. Sara smiled. He took Sara over to what he called a special row of trees. He said every tree in this row was $10. There were signs here that said the trees were much more, in fact, one tree had a $40 price tag on it. “Oh that was yesterday, today is a sale so choose one, and I will help you bring it home,” he said. Sara chose one quite a bit taller than herself but by adult standards it was still a small tree. Greg got Sam, another worker to load the tree onto a truck and he took Sara back to her house with the tree.

“How old are you?” Greg asked. “Eight”, said Sara.
When they arrived at her home her older brother Jim and mother were home and answered the door. At first they did not know what to think. After all, no one had considered buying a tree this year. “Sara, what have you done?” asked her brother Jim who looked surprised. Her mother, who was wearing a bathrobe, looked quite pale, thanked Sam, and offered him some additional money for the tree. “Oh no”, he said, “Sara paid for the tree.”
Sara’s mom helped her children and husband decorate the small tree that night. It brought a smile to everyone to see Sara’s mom helping in the decorating. Sara’s dad and brother could not believe little Sara had shown such independence in finding a tree on her own. “Sara, thank you for caring about everyone so much that you wanted to do this, but please promise me”, her father said, “that you will not go off alone again without me, your mother or brother.” Sara promised. After Christmas, they planted the tree in yard. The next year the tree was even bigger and they needed a tall ladder to put decorations and lights on. People all over the neighborhood got to admire the little tree that Sara had gotten for her family just the year before.christmas tree

THE END.

Vacation All I Ever Wanted…

The Go Go’s, that female rock/pop group of the 80’s had a song called, “Vacation”.  The title of this Blog post is a line from the song dedicated to that thought, it’s all I ever wanted!  It’s been several years since I’ve taken a proper vacation of a week away from home.  I’ve done the stay-cation  a few times in the past several years.  You know, getting away from home but not that far, within an hour somewhere you can get away. I’ve done pet sitting, house sitting, in the journey to “get away”.  Lovely cats they were.  I believe only one out of the three are still alive.  Sigh. The ugly winter is over, I can move around freely now.  It’s time for a getaway!  Oh, the places I could go?  If only the price was affordable.  Looking back on some fun vacations over the past 20 years.

Far Away Getaways

Far Away Getaways

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Tropical Vacation

Tropical Vacation

A Great Client Deserves Remembering

Image

There is much talk about customer service and how to do it well.  There have been books, lectures, seminars on how to respond favorably to achieve great customer service.  Companies, small businesses, entrepreneurs understand the value and return good customer service can bring back to you.  I’d like to talk for this moment about great clients. Great clients can make it possible to deal with less desirable clients as they come along. Mary Lou was such a client.

Being a Realtor isn’t an easy task. I’ve met the most unethical people I’ve ever had to work with doing real estate.  Lies, half-truths, misleading customers to get their way in hopes of a larger something or another. That’s from agents and customers alike.

I was lucky enough to have two great clients come my way the first year I was practicing real estate sales.  One bought a house from me, and continues to stay in touch,  and one rented a summer rental from me and continued to come back to me for the next six years to rent something.  Mary Lou Cain was the nicest summer rental client I have ever had.  She called me Honey Dear.  Who does that? No one.  She was disarming in her charm and grace.  She was a lovely person inside and out.  As a couple she and Charles had much to be proud of.  Retirees with discretionary income to enjoy lifes many pleasures.  Large family, grand kids to share their lives with. One son is a doctor at Columbia Presbyterian in New York.

People who met them said the same things. She was a lovely person. She kept in touch for Holiday’s and birthdays with people she only knew seasonally. I looked forward to calling her and helping them find their next new summer rental.  For two years they would rent the same home then look for something new.  Then two years again. She would compliment me on my choices that I found for them. “You always do a great job finding us something wonderful Kathy”, she would say, “you really do.”

Sadly I just learned I will not rent them a summer home anymore.  Mary Lou I knew had a cancer diagnosis last December but thought at the time it was controllable. With cancer you never know, and her Ovarian Cancer was not controllable. She passed the end of March.  Her diagnosis came too late.  She is at peace now.  I pray for her family, Charles and all their children and grandchildren that they have the great memories of her to sustain them.  Having gone through my father’s cancer death and Hospice care I shared with Charles my own experiences and he seemed comforted by that.  Hospice care givers are an amazing group of people. Charles is a wonderful example of an outstanding client as well. Always respectful and kind in his words. They made it possible for me to deal with less respectful clients. There confidence in me, and the way they expressed their gratitude buoyed me through other trying times. That is the mark of a great client.
  Charles said he thinks back and says Oh, if we did this sooner, if we did that sooner perhaps the outcome would have been different. But we can’t go back only forward.

RIP Mary Lou Cain. You will be missed greatly by all that knew you and you will stand in my memory as the best summer rental client I have ever had to date and probably ever will have.  Thank you for the memory you were truly dear to me.

MY PERSONAL DAY WITH THE ACA (AKA NYSTATEOFHEALTH)

Image

It’s three months into the new year. How we doing?  Ed Koch had that quintessential phrase follow him around for years.  He had the nerve to ask people and they told him.  Since January I’ve been overwhelmed with the antagonistic nature of the new health insurance that is mandated.  My old insurance which I had for five years was a PPO.  Not great but covered everything I needed it to and though there were glitches in time where a doctor or two didn’t accept it, in time all the doctors I needed to see did.  That’s not the case with this new insurance regime.

First of all: New York State created their own health marketplace instead of opting to use the Federal health channel.  Citizens of New York be heard “You cannot have a PPO as an individual member.”  Options are gone. Although there are different insurance agencies that offer coverage – all benefits are the same – all are HMO’s for individuals and no more sole proprietor status.  Sole proprietors are now lumped into individual category which were always those who didn’t work, or couldn’t work, and had a higher premium attached to it than a sole proprietor.  Promised last fall by the insurers that if a doctor of hosptial took their current HMO then they would take the new one through the healthmarketplace.  However, not so. Come January 2014 this health debacle unfurled a nastly reality. All is not the same.  Doctors were being told “they could not participate”, or they were in fear of even lower reimbursement rates than medicare participants so they opted not to take it at all.  It was three weeks before I ever got my ID number and that was after calling three different times and waiting an hour and fifteen minutes each time to speak to a BCBS representative.

If it wasn’t for my tenacity and persistence I would have been like thousands who just never got the ID card or number for the month of January. One thing I will say they are up on is sending out the monthly premium bill.  In fact I got two for the month of January!

Why isn’t this mess on the evening news a few days out of the week? This is something I don’t understand.  New York State screwed its citizens with or without the Cuomo administration knowing what was going on.  According to the New York State Attorney General’s office there are thousands a week filing complaints regarding lack of coverage or misleading information that led people to believe they had one coverage then the insurance companies turned it around and changed provider networks. Blue Cross Blue Shield is the largest  health insurance carrier in New York state and has had the most complaints. All Blue Cross Blue Shield across the country is now under Wellpoint a public company that seems to care more about its stock price then the care hundreds of thousands who signed up for coverage with them expect.  Changes are a coming. How we doing?  Not well.

Taking Care of YOUR Expectations

ImageEveryone wants to get paid what they are worth. The problem is, many people don’t know what their work is valued at. They may have ideas and surveys and studies may help shape those ideas.  But, when it comes down to it, working for someone else or yourself, fees are accessed and expectations are created.  Here’s a timely look at managing your client’s expectations.  I wrote this a couple of years back.

Managing a client’s expectations upfront has always been key in the public relations and marketing service field (I will now add any service industry, Real estate, healthcare, automotive, etc.). Having worked on the client side, the agency side and consulting side I’ve seen the 360 degree view from all sides. When you clash with a client, or agency, over goals and expectations within the first two weeks  of working with them somebody missed the boat.  When writing proposals most goals are clearly written and agreed to before any work takes place.  This is necessary before any contract is even written.  But, when clients blatantly can’t see the value in your work (they hired you because you know more than they do) what do you do?  Sometimes the best thing is to walk away.

Goal Setting is Key for any Proposal.  Almost every client I’ve worked with or talked to initially wants to be on the Today Show and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  Some clients have shied away from that saying “they only want trades.”  I have had clients who in the past would want me to seek out media opportunities, as many as I could, just to approve or disapprove the opportunity – and nine times out of ten they turned them down. You know the scary ones where you get millions of media impressions in one minute like CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg radio or TV.  You know the really easy placements to get that take no time at all securing. The funny thing is that it is within their target audience and on message. What do they know that you don’t know?  I had one client say after turning down a media placement on a national broadcast television news show that they didn’t want the world to see their soft underbelly.  What?  Having worked with them for three months I didn’t realize they had a soft underbelly – and no amount of Pilates and or, yoga would help firm that up.  In retrospect the client wasn’t allowing us – the agency – full disclosure.  About a year after that media opp the company filed for bankruptcy protection and was later bought out. Goal setting needs to be objective, attainable and on message, but if the client isn’t disclosing to you their real self at the beginning, you may achieve the initial goals only to have them deflate before seeing them executed.