Lil’ Kim says, “Send a bitch a kite.” I say, “I like email.” — firstname.lastname@example.org
I need to get this out of the way: If you are one of the people following me on Twitter, I love you. I mean it. Like, in the creepy way. Your Replies and Direct Messages and emails give me a reason to not close myself up in a washing machine and wait for sweet sudsy spinning death to come. Thank you. Sincerely.
And please don’t stop.
Scott Simpson, who might very well be the nicest human being I’ve ever met on the computer, gave me some advice regarding my recent conundrum of how the hell to monetize this blogging thing.
I’ve started hoping, in this kind of ridiculous way, that somebody out there in the interether would reach out and offer me a steady gig or a book deal. It’s in a similar way to when I wanted to be a milkman as a kid.
I was born in ‘81. There were no milkmen. Especially not on Long Island.
Scott’s advice was to capitalize on the intellectual property aspect, especially since a freelancer’s advertising opportunities are small at best and nonexistent on Tumblr.
I know, I know, I know Stuff White People Like got a fucking book deal motherfucking motherfuck. (In other news: Congratulations, guys. You do actually deserve it though I’m so jealous I could rip out my own tongue, write a fan letter on it, and mail it to you like a postcard.)
The internet has allowed the cult of personality to become a sort of elite club, where people like Kottke, the Nicks, that guy who likes the famous people, that chick with the accent, and countless others to become “bloggers.” For a living. They get paid to write and post on the internet and wear pajamas if they want. I want to wear pajamas for a living.
So I started thinking in the shower about what Scott wrote, about what I have to contribute to the Internet as a voice in the clamor, what IP I’ve got in the way of WPM. Here’s what I could come up with:
- A site giving advice on how to be a lesbian who cyber-stalks her male crush from college, moves across the country to be with him, and what not to do. The last part would include such revelatory tidbits like: How To Cry On A Trimet Bus, Why Making Out With Girls Is Bad Even If It’s Right In Front Of Your Boyfriend, “Fuck Me” Means Lots Of Stuff That You Didn’t Know It Meant, and Try Not To Move Back To New York. It would be like a new agey sort of blog. Uplifting.
- Your Late Twenties: Why They’re The Same As Your Teenage Years In The 90’s And Why That’s Probably Not A Good Thing — This one would be very dry. Think NewScientist only following the slow demise of Hot Topic stores, grunge, and working knee joints.
- GashDot. A site about not having your period. Trying to do that with Bitchcraft but moving and actual itty-bitty freelance jobs have sort of tripped me out of the Wicca starting gate.
- Riff off of Eve Ensler and create The Vagina Microblogs. Wait, no, I’ve already been doing this.
I’ve also been wondering if trying to market in different niches would work, for instance, instead of just saying that I will write anything at all for money, seriously instead start targeting actual markets, like record labels who need press kits or band bios, or tech enterprises that need success stories, or dirty old men who need erotica. Just infiltrate each market with an offer and a quote and a sample. How to go about doing this, though, is the question.
So, now that all my whining is out of the way, send me advice, work, or hate mail. Please. Life’s really fucking dull when you’ve got no work or hobbies other than finding burrito places to bike to and posting offensive drivel on Twitter.
Oh, and writing this stuff. This stuff is a hobby, too, I guess.
Completely unrelated to work, but completely related to my shower: the juxtaposition between my new apartment and my old one is astonishing. I had forgotten about doorstops actually existing. Also, lights? In the bathroom? Fuck, dude. And the kitchen has not only a stove but a spray nozzle attachment for the sink! How do you say luxury?
I expect to find an entire kiddie pool filled with jizz in my closet by tomorrow morning.
Oh, and here is Scott Simpson’s Tumblr page, your monkey called.
[Write me a letter: AinsleyDrew at gee male dot calm]
The influx of work has once again slowed to a trickle, which means that it’s back to verbal bloodsport for me and my other hand. Keywords and phrases of recent arguments: entitlement, worry, melodramatic, I’m going to/why don’t you just move back to New York, really?!, you act like the sky is falling, and the tried-but-true fuck. I should do a tag cloud.
For those of you who didn’t see our tantrum both in Unthank Park as well as on the corner of Shaver, the conclusion came after my boyfriend and business partner was gently hit by a truck as he skated after me. We talked it out from a seated position, the conversation went nowhere, and I got so hungry that we decided to put the fight on hold while we went out for Mediterranean food.
He was okay. The truck didn’t hit him hard. Jesus Christ, that sounds insensitive.
I decided that there has to be a deeper psychological component to our word combat. I mean, we’re not actually crazy, even though he tells me I need to“see someone.” We’re in love. Really, we are.
So I used Google to try to find an explanation, a sentence that, in and of itself, should clue me in as to how far along shit creek my mental canoe has gone afloat.
Here was this little tidbit I dug up from the anals…annals of Psychology Today, my favorite magazine to read in the library of my high-school when I wanted to seem “smart”:
Couples fight about money more than any other issue. This is as true of couples who stay married as of couples who wind up divorcing. The main financial matters couples fight over include levels of spending and saving (since women tend to think men should make more, while men tend to think that women should spend less), the amount of time spent working, differences in long-term financial goals such as retirement savings, and money chores such as balancing the checkbook and paying bills. (Psychology Today Magazine, Nov/Dec 2004)
Considering that we have no money to worry about saving, spending, or balancing in any way other than in a neat stack of quarters on the bedside table for bus fare, I don’t think this article is appropriate. Moreover, we work together, and we love what we do, so “time spent working” isn’t an issue. Retirement, for everyone in this country and particularly for freelance artists, is basically on par with a unicorn-versus-narwhal dance-off. Ain’t gonna happen.
So. I suppose we don’t fight about money, though I’m no head shrinker. I think we fight ‘cause we want someone to give us a chance at a long-term gig, may it be corporate blogging or a company’s advertising copy and editing. And what adds to the short kids’ cage match is that we’re wholly poor, which makes us skip meals, and skipping meals makes us cranky. Two only children who are craving burritos and yet are forced instead to spend the afternoon together typing out compelling prose about bourgeoisie necessities such as vacation packages and software components? Yeah. Take two beta fish and toss them in the same bowl, dub over sound effects of hyenas ripping out each others throats. And that’s on a good day.
Since he thinks that we fight because I stress over money, I figure I have to get money for both of us in order to stop the endless fight. Money equals clients, in the grand scheme of things. I don’t know how to get clients — a gold lamé mini-dress, pleather stilettos, and a large thumb, perhaps — but I’m trying.
This morning I was still pretty keyed up, but I kept it to myself. My thoughts ranged from What does he know anyway? He at least has a part-time DJ gig to feed him to I don’t care about money, I wear the same clothes I did in high-school. Literally. It’s true.
Then I lost forty dollars on my way to the grocery store and the frenzied cycle of homicidal rage and abject terror that ensued — as well as the sudden, histrionic shift of the internal dialog — led me to believe that perhaps the boy is right. Maybe I do worry about money. Maybe I even, daresay, stress about it. Maybe I should see someone. And by someone I mean the kind folks at the local Food Stamp Office. Or a temp agency. Or my mom.
Adding to my generally apoplectic worldview is that I have no idea how to take the work we’re currently doing and apply it to the job hunt. One of our employers is at the helm of a sinking ship enterprise, and in response to a project we were sent an email about what we should be gearing our work towards. The meandering message and accompanying asinine images included MTV celebrities from circa 2000 as well as washed up socialites and the phrases like “we were ballin” and “he came threw and got laced.” [Editor’s Note: Yes, that spelling.] Scrolling through the suggested examples made me want to drink a liter of bleach and jump off of my roof. I couldn’t tell if it was serious.
Sometimes it feels like freelance work is a lot like high-school, only without the dewy hormone-induced glow that arrives every morning. I’m grateful to be in this with someone as pigheaded, confrontationally capable, and small as me. It makes for a delightful off-road spectacle, if nothing else.
Check out the magick pronounced magic
(Another list. How productive of me.)
Because my dancing skills aren’t getting any better and my naked body still resembles a stunted prepubescent boy after trying out for the swim team, and because I realize how close we are yet again to splitting a can of refried beans as a meal, I present my latest attempt at getting work: New And Inventive Ways I’m Going To Look For Clients. Another blog post about looking for work on a blog that’s about looking for work. Send your own suggestions. (AinsleyDrew@gmail.com)
1. Bathroom graffiti. “For a good line call…” The only problem with this is that I have a 516 area code. You know who has shared those three illustrious digits? Amy Fischer, Mariah Carey, Billy Joel, and some kid from American Idol. It gets an A+ for visibility here in Portland, but a solid FAIL for everything else. Besides, Portlanders don’t call. They apparently sulk apathetically and then get wired money.
2. Tattoo.* Also a good way to strike up conversation wherever I go, which really isn’t very far. I figure it should be a tattoo of a huge set of testicles on the inside wrist of my dominant hand. I write with balls, get it? Crickets and a cough.
3. My mother. No. Bad idea. I would wind up writing copy for real estate agents, hair salons, and the rest of my family who are mostly employed in jobs they hate. That’s why blogs exist, to distract from that sort of nine-to-five monotony. Well, that and to make people who type fast feel like they’re actually doing something with their lives other than slowly starving and wearing the same clothes from high-school.
4. Pitch to Nick Denton.
Stop laughing, that one was serious.
5. Start a vague blog that applies the same logic as Matthew Barney’s Cremaster series. Basically confuse and destroy. My posts would be anonymous and unsettling. You’d follow but you wouldn’t know why. People would describe it as pretentious and revelatory. I probably still wouldn’t be able to score us any paying work.
6. Reality television. “All right, get this, so these two scrappy kids live in Portland, a real hipster town, real up-and-coming. The kids, they’re like, kind of gay looking…no, no! I’ve got it! One is gay, the girl, yeah, that would be hot with the backstory, some sort of girl-on-girl montage, yeah. And the guy, he’s like, what’s something that’s in? A DJ? Yeah, he’s a DJ. Really humble but still a pretty big name in the DJ world out there. Lots of opportunity for product placement there, Adidas, Nike, all that shit. And celebs too, like Busdriver and some music industry big-wigs. Yeah, so, the DJ and the dyke, they’re writers. They’re trying, struggling, to make ends meet. Maybe they fuck too? When stressed? But they fight like hell and the girl one, she cries a lot. I mean, a lot. Like water works every show. We can even have Tori Amos write the theme song. Or maybe somebody more relevant, like, that screechy one that sounds like a whale, who’s she, Regina so-and-so? Yeah, her. Anyway, lots of yelling, lots of tears, but it’s funny! It’s funny! Like, dark comedy. What do you think? I’m saying it has CW network written all over it…Wait, these kids really exist? Really? Like, there are people that pathetic out there? Eh, fuck it, at least now we don‘t have to pay a writing staff.”
7. Rent parties. These were huge in New York at some point, probably when we were in school. In fact, we probably snuck into rent parties and stole the booze when we were at NYU. Well, we should throw two now, one for our rent (two apartments) and one for work (the office we never go to.) Then we’ll have one for food and then we’re set. Three parties. Now we just need friends who have money, a space, and some stuff that makes people do stuff in this town other than bicycles and drugs. The problem with this is that we likely wouldn’t get any writing out of it. Unless we turned it into…writing parties! Kind of like face painting at a carnival only with ad copy and technical writing! Okay, I know, this one makes no sense.
The truth is, I have no idea how to get clients. I have no idea how to get work, how to convince people they need someone to punch up the copy on their website, that their product could use a push, that their launch requires a press release. The clients we do get are often flaky about money, and are one-time jobs. It sucks. And even though things are going pretty well right now I find myself gripped in the usual glittery glove called fear, and it’s the sort of handshake that keeps this short girl up at night, usually next to a boy who has a knack for unconscious teeth-grinding. (No joke.)
If you have any advice, or job offers, send them my way. AinsleyDrew at gee male dot calm.
* I’m getting a tattoo tomorrow and although it’s writing related, chances are that it likely won’t lead to work unless my tattoo artist is desperate for a new bio or children’s book. “Needles Can Be Fun” or “There’s Ink In My Hurty”? Maybe.
I’ve been more negligent than I had planned to be with Jerk Ethic in the past week, which I suppose is a fairly dull and predictable disclaimer for a recreational blogger. Next time I’ll come up with something interesting like, “Oh, I’ve been fighting a ton of crime ever since I mastered Jujitsu. I swear, once I get this mugger out of a headlock I’ll post more often.” Nothing that sexy. We’ve gotten some much needed freelance work and I’ve been preparing to move into a new apartment so I can move out of the spank bank. Boring stuff, but edumacational. Tonight I present to you a list of Things I’m Learning. Maybe it, too, can enlighten you. And if you enjoy Jerk Ethic and would like to read it more often, as always, you can always pay me to write it.
Sometimes sharing an office can be a lot like an open relationship.
Just like casual dating, it initially seems liberating and wise, especially if you like the other party involved and want to make them happy. However, just like polyamory, it can quickly spiral out into an out-of-control, socially overwhelming and unnecessarily intimidating situation that inevitably leads to arguing, avoidance, a loss of money, and possibly chlamydia.
Okay, neither one of us has chlamydia. Yet.
We haven’t been to our office in a week. That means that ¼ of our rent this month was wasted. Partially this was due to a computer being in a locked room belonging to a friend in an out-of-the-way location but also we’ve heard that several other individuals have been invited to share our space. What had started out as a three person share is now five to seven people in a single room.
It doesn’t help when two of these people are what we can refer to as “talkers.” We’re talkers, too, but we’re also panickers. As in, we panic, fight like hell, and produce stellar copy. Much like getting in the middle of a bayonet duel, it’s probably best to just leave us the hell alone when we’re working together.
My counterpart says that we should invest in some industrial grade headphones. (He’s serious.) While I think that wearing an air traffic controller costume might send the message that I want to be left the fuck alone because my medication has worn off, I don’t think this is a viable long-term solution. We’ll have to see.
Just like the cheating husband who buys his wife jewelry, if you’re cut a check that seems too large, chances are there’s something amiss.
This isn’t to say that we believe in selling our work for cheap. We don’t. Even when we’re down to our last nickels for bus fare and we’re sharing an apple as a meal we don’t lower our rates. Period. But when you sit down and have a project outlined in vagaries, incoherent business jargon (“We really took a bath but now we’re movin’ up, with your help, we’ll be movin’ up.”) and then you’re just cut a fairly sizeable check without being told what you’re supposed to actually do to earn that money, well, it’s a little dumbfounding.
But, hey, we’re more than grateful and walking out of an office, check-in-hand, feels a lot better than walking into a soup kitchen, bowl in hand. Besides, we turn in good work on time. Even if we’re unsure what direction this particular client is going with us, we’re still writing. And we’ll continue to do so until he tells us to strip naked and fuck on camera, ’cause, hey, kids, that’s what he’s paying for, etc.
Working with someone you love can mean wanting to kill the person you work with.
It’s great to wake up next to someone who makes you feel like the world’s a pretty rad place to be stuck to. It’s even better when you work on a project with someone who challenges you and makes you excited to do a good job. Celebrating your loved ones’ successes is part of the joy of having relationships and families and all that gushy interpersonal stuff. But financial strife and fear and hormones and just general day-to-day nonsense can lead to more tears than a The Cure fan-club meeting in a cemetery, not to mention the kind of fighting that gets Quentin Tarantino erect.
Meanings of some of the looks we’ve shot each other of late:
- I know that tongue is good for something. Talking right now? Yeah, that ain’t it.
- Several variations of the expression “fuck off.”
- Hold me, leave me alone, hold me, leave me alone.
- Right. Great idea. What’s next, buying a puppy and panhandling?
- If I had a pen knife I’d slice off your fingers, stick them in your mouth, gouge out your eyes, and then open all the mail I haven’t had time to get through since I started dealing with your bullshit.
The plus side of this is that the things that turn out well are, for lack of a better term, double-happiness. The other day one of the projects that we worked on went live. He had done most of the writing, I had been on the revising end. I saw his words, thoughts, and vision on a website and it was better than seeing something I had constructed solo up anywhere. I felt proud, not only to be his girlfriend, but also to be a part of the company that churns out such brilliant work. (Back pats all around.) When you work with someone who pretty much astounds you daily with their intellectual and creative capacity it’s incredibly rewarding, even if that reward comes with a fair amount of risk and resignation. That said, our business account had best include a monthly sum put aside to post bail.
Don’t talk about cunnilingus in a business meeting.
Keep reading, stay tuned, check out Bitchcraft as it becomes more regular, just like I hope my period will…
My current love/work arrangement can best be described as “like Richard Simmons and Trent Reznor trying to compete in a three-legged-race.”
I’d like to thank Gawker for putting my Twitter page up under “Twelve People Worth Actually Following On Twitter.” I don’t know if I deserve it, but I appreciate it immensely. Hopefully it will result in some form of work. It feels really nice to be recognized. Almost as nice as a full stomach.
Yesterday Simon’s slogan for a local breakfast comfort food spot, Pine State Biscuits, ran in their ad in the Portland Mercury. Put your mouth down South.
I would like to state for the record that he absolutely knows what he’s talking about.
He has family from Louisiana and was raised in Oklahoma. He knows good biscuits. Pine State’s are fantastic buttery gifts for the mouth, I was lucky enough to sample one (with mushroom gravy) prior to my blogtastic vegan adventure. He likes to taunt me now by taking me to watch him eat there. He’ll get his. And it’ll be laden with soy.
Mr. Goetz has also penned this guest spot for Jerk Ethic, after much cajoling, pouting, and oral sex. Enjoy. Heaven knows we did. And, no, it isn’t a substitute for actual eating, but we wish it were.
Disclaimer: As stated before, we’ve learned our lesson. 50% upfront. It’s almost as much our fault as it is their delinquency. Hey, we’re new at this, and we used to believe in the good of mankind. We’re learning.
AN OPEN LETTER TO CLIENTS WHO OWE US MONEY
Dear Clients Who Owe Us Money,
We realize this letter is only one of the many we’ve sent over the last few months. Chances are it will go unopened, deposited in the entryway to your office with the others, mingled in with Netflix envelopes and reminders from your dentist about your next cleaning. If stacked, they’d be thigh-high by now. You probably stopped reading after we mailed the first. If you hear the voice messages we leave every other day, we hope, in the kindest way, that the guilt is mounting in your chest and around your neck, like an albatross made of leaden hippopotamuses.
We’re tired of writing letters to you and beseeching to your answering machines. Our index fingers are blistered from punching in your phone numbers. But we’re going to keep doing both until you deliver the money you owe us. We’ve done work for your business. Now pay ours. Please. Please? We’re starving over here.
See that sun outside, the one you were golfing under yesterday while you let your Blackberry ring? Sometimes we feel like we’re holding that up, arms and shoulders buckling under its molten girth. The bills are piling up fast on the hollow-core-door-and-sawhorse desk we all share. We’ve been digging through our office neighbors’ chromed trash cans, foraging for Snickers bar crumbs, sucking on used Kleenex wads for the salt.
Months ago now, we wrote tag lines on your behalf, bouncing numerous emails back with suggestions and revisions and reassuring you that no, your fledgling product or restaurant didn’t need to borrow the aesthetic of the Hard Rock Café. No, the slogan for your company should not be three sentences long. No, your product should not have a lower-case “i” in front of its name unless you want to be fighting off more lawyers than there were Persians at Thermopylae. But now we know that you aren’t really concerned with that. You’re probably lining the floorboards of your BMW with our letters full of quiet pleading, lighting your cigars off our desperate and clawing invoices.
Do you know that we don’t even have cars, that it’s a financial impossibility? That to pay the rent in our shit-heap apartment with the mystery stains on the ceiling, we have to overdraw our accounts? Last week we fought over the logistics of rationing a bag of Skittles. There were some tears and some biting, and as a result one of us needed to sell their bicycle in order to afford antiseptic ointment.
We understand if you are poor (which, judging solely by the size of the hybrid SUV that you drove to our initial meeting, you aren’t). Even if you don’t enlighten us as to the reasons, we wish that you’d at least possess the decency to inform us that you are not paying so that we don’t run out to the mailbox every morning, eyes welling with hope.
If you continue to leave your debts to us unsettled, we will use the one thing we have to (gently) destroy you: words. We will sell our friends’ children in order to take out ads in the New York Times, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, Piantball XXXtreme, Better Homes and Gardens, and on websites across the illustrious adult novelty shop known as the Internet. We will combine the most cynical and atrocious words we know with the name of your business or product. And this will be done soon - yes, soon! - once one of us is able to reach the keyboard from behind our Biafra-wracked bellies.
So, before you take off to your beach-house, we ask yet again, with lightness of angels, pull out that Mont Blanc in your breast pocket. Fan out your checkbooks, pick one that feels right in your hand. Lick the etched-gold nib and turn need into have. Redeem yourselves. Save us.
Everyone at Ministry of Imagery
PS - Sorry that this envelope is slightly wrinkled and stained. The most recent mailman made the mistake of knocking. It has long been established in our office that government employees are okay to eat.
Gimme my money!
I disclaim by saying that the client I’m referencing in this post seems like a pretty nice guy. He makes eye-contact, speaks slowly, and up until I turned in the final work he was pretty attentive when it came to being in touch. I don’t know if he’s ever worked as a freelance writer in a new town with an unidentifiable fishnet stocking fetishist ejaculating into his clothes. I’m not foolish enough to assume that he’s never worked under pressure, or that I don’t sympathize with him on some level, but the following exerpt from my morning will hopefully illustrate why I’m becoming less convinced that humanity wasn’t just something that was used as a mood enhancer back when brontosauruses were still fucking.
Sample dialog from today when I met with him in order to receive payment —
Client: I know we said two hundred dollars. But how about I just pay you one hundred and fifty dollars cash, right now?
Me: Um. But you quoted two hundred dollars.
Client: See…yeah, money’s real tight for me right now. I’ve got this new business, and my wife is on my back…
This was the moment where I remembered sitting on the floor of my tiny room, next to my even tinier semen soaked closet, nary two weeks ago. I was splitting flour tortillas ($1.37 for 50!) and refried beans ($0.67 per can) with my boyfriend. The silence that fills a room when two people who love each other are starving is like no other silence. It’s why the tale of Juliet and her Romeo exists. If those kids didn’t die there would be no story. Hunger is our Montague clan. Our clients are the Capulets.
Me: You quoted two hundred dollars. I’m sorry. I did the work. Next time try to quote me lower.
And at that point two Grants and a Benji were literally thrown in front of me.
No harm, no foul, full pocket. I might have severed a possible ongoing business relationship with my inability to fold under pressure, but at least I got paid for the work I did.
And this is why I am learning that the ability to bust balls is perhaps not the greatest trait for a lady to have, but it does make for better business. Next time I’m demanding 50% up-front, 30% if it’s my dream job (read: any writing for or with Henry Rollins or Kim Addonizio.) Anyway, I don’t look very good in a skirt and I suck at cooking.
I know it’s against my usual policy of railing against white girls who are plagued with issues of entitlement, but I have to wonder if this guy would have tried the same bullshit with, oh, I don’t know…Glenn Danzig or Roger Bonair-Agard. I doubt it.
I also learned a strange lesson from all of this, other than the fact that I should start pumping iron and injecting anabolic steroids. It’s much, much easier to demand things when someone you love is involved. I know that if someone mugged me I’d hand over my wallet, but if someone tried to mug my dad in front of me I’d pull out my K.I.S.S. and become a human ribbon making factory. My boy and I, we are a team in this writing game. If I crack under pressure his side of the glass still leaks. We are not going to be scared any more if I can help it.
I don’t understand if I’m just ignorant to the way the world truly works. Perhaps I’m the one who is a hardass, demanding way too much, usually in the way of, you know, money. Maybe tomorrow I should just walk into Fred Meyer and stroll up to the clerk with my grocery cart saying
Wait, well, I know it says $4.49 for a box Corn Flakes but, see, how ‘bout I just give you three dollars after you let me take it home and eat some of it? Money’s tight, I’ve got a bike I need to get painted, and my boyfriend likes sweat socks, the fancy kind…
“A fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place.” Wall Street
I’m lucky enough that I can say first-hand that it’s true, if you do what you love you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Stick me in front of any old word processing program, notebook, whiteboard, paper napkin and give me something to write with, I’m happy. More than happy, I’m at ease more so than I am when I’m not writing. It’s weird.
The first paycheck I got for putting my cursor to work was back in 2000. The entire experience made me laugh, and not just because I knew, at the ripe age of nineteen, that I was being drastically underpaid, but because I had done nothing that made me feel as though I deserved an iota of monetary compensation. I sat down, I wrote about the topic I was instructed to, and a middle-aged editor in a loft overlooking Houston Street cut me a check. It was like I played the biggest joke on the world. It felt like a bank heist. I probably bought a tattoo with the money.
Fast forward eight years and slide a few bills under the door. I can’t call up T-Mobile and say, “Hey there! Don’t you just love allowing people to communicate? You do? Well, then look at that as my payment for your service. Your happiness.”
Not so much. However, it seems to be common practice in the world of freelance writing that your clients often won’t see the importance in paying you. They may openly gush about your work, they may refer you to their friends, they may say that your business card is the most creative and hilarious thing they’ve seen since Blue Man Group (seriously, that’s how dated most people who would hire me are) but ask for payment and you get…crickets.
I had a deadline today. I handed in my work on Friday (yes, early), went through the text with the client, sent in revisions. Sent two follow-up emails. Suddenly I‘m being avoided in a more severe way than the time in high-school when I wouldn‘t let Danny Lynch have sex with me in the backseat of my cousin‘s Civic. This cold shoulder would be fine, if it were a cold shoulder of beef I could carve up and eat. Unfortunately it’s not.
Tomorrow I’m going to have to call the gentleman and I can nearly guarantee what’s going to happen: he’s not going to answer. Or, if he has forgotten the only cell-phone number from Nassau County in this little town belongs to yours truly, he may pick up and be suddenly, inexplicably busy. But chances are that I sent the assignment off into the ether like Apollo 13, except instead of getting a heroic ending in the form of a deposit slip I’m getting a personal tragedy. That was my cell-phone bill and part of my rent, motherfucker.
My mentor, who is phenomenally successful and a bitch enough to be otherworldly attractive too, has told me to demand “at least thirty percent up-front.” I have now learned the hard way that this is more than crucial, it’s quite simply shitty business not to. And it reflects having the self-esteem of an overweight sixth grade girl going straight from the orthodontists’ office to a beauty pageant. I love to write, but not asking for at least some money immediately upon being hired just comes across as desperate. And stupid.
You’d think that I would have learned by now. You’d think I would have applied my east coast I’ll-cut-a-bitch-with-no-questions-asked mentality to work. But it seems that karma might be kicking my ass. I remember telling my paranoid pilates boss that she didn’t give her customers the benefit of the doubt. They would pay. If they said they forgot their wallet at home and that they’d pay next time then chances are they, you know, forgot their wallet. They’d pay next time. They weren’t out to get her.
I wonder what she’d have to say about this little predicament I find myself in. Two hundred dollars worth of work and I can’t get my client to respond to me, even just to man-up and say he’s not paying for whatever reason. (“I don’t want to” would even work in this instance because at least then one person would be triumphing over the Portland non-confrontational flakiness I see nearly every day on line at the nearest Stumptown.)
Simon is a copywriter as well. I could spout praise about him all over this blog but instead I’ll just say that if you’re interested in reading some insanely good writing go here. He is also fiercely intelligent, witty as hell, and hotter than a Scotch Bonnet. (Sorry, ladies. I aimed my blowdart gun expertly in this case.) But when it comes to business he’s gone through this not once, not twice, but three times, each lack of a paycheck accompanied by my tongue clucking, saying, “You know, you really need to start asking for them to pay you before you send out the work.”
Now that he’s taken me on as his business partner we’ve had to strategize and try to figure out a way to get the cash for the characters, the paychecks for the paragraphs, the Washingtons for the words. (Okay, bigger than Washingtons. We hope.) So far my list includes “call their mothers,” “cry,” and the not-so-business-savvy “hire someone large to threaten them, possibly with angry dogs.” I also thought “protest” but realized that this is Portland and a) it’s impossible to make anybody show up on time for anything and b) there are too many fucking protests.
So here’s the outcome, before we starve to death, I would like a list of suggestions.
If you have any - the ridiculous, the serious, the ones that have worked for you - please email me at
ainsleydrew at gee male dot calm.
A flick of the wrist…
So I haven’t updated this blog in a few days longer than my usual dalliance, I know, and I’m sorry if anybody is reading this regularly. In the future I’ll try my damnedest to keep it more regular. At least I have a good excuse, and not that I was camping out for an Ugly Casanova show or got a bad haircut.
When I first moved to Portland I lived with my boyfriend, another half-Jew/only child/writer with particular tastes and a generally spoiled nature. Basically I’m dating a bald version of myself who is a better skateboarder and has fewer tattoos. Needless to say, living with him in a single room that first two weeks was like reenacting a scene from The Shining, only with more menstruation and cursing. I moved into the first place I looked at, which was a large room in the upstairs section of a house south of Powell.
For those of you not familiar with Portland’s quirky geography, there are a few basics that I‘ve learned since my arrival: Southeast is where the whitest of the white hipsters play and live, there are many tattoos and a lot of vintage duds and the attitude of apathy rules. Also, there are many, many vegans. North Portland is more racially diverse and is likely to be wholly gentrified by the time I finish typing this sentence. It’s like a different world up there, in a good way. Northwest and Southwest I have no idea what they’re about but I assume that one houses the Sharks and the other is the home of the Jets. South of Powell in Southeast, however, is what happens when a meth lab, a Western Union, and the dregs of American industry get drunk off of wine coolers and decide to light the cat on fire. It is not high-class. It is dangerous in that somewhat subversive way. I would walk home and would watch the litter at the side of the road change from arcade trash from the Avalon, empty packs of American Spirits, and the fliers for the new Band of Horses release to the used condoms, broken glass, and crushed cartons of French fries that were left behind by the SouPow ilk.
My roommate was a few years younger than me and perpetually looked at me with a mixture of awe and fear. (Mind you, this was back when I was still drinking, so the fear part was somewhat justified.) He worked as a waiter at a douchebag filled pub, and had the hopes of recording an album with his band. We had no light in the bathroom, no internet, and a broken TV with rabbit ear antennas that got channels “sorta 49” and “almost 47.” There were no locks on any of the doors. My roommate’s car was broken into and he had his radio stolen three times. One day the dog ran off and nobody knew for hours because the backdoor was always swinging open. One of the band members, a twenty-one year old ex-Mormon who had severe diabetes, lived in the basement next to where the washer and dryer were kept. He had to give himself daily insulin injections so the entire lower level of the house looked like a sequel to Trainspotting, only starring the members of the band Hanson. It was not quaint or charming. Other than my camaraderie with the band, and the way that my roommate would jump to do nearly anything that I asked (buy a whiteboard where I could write drunken notes, call the landlord to try yet again to get the bathroom wiring fixed, buy soda, give me a ride to a house party he wasn’t invited to, check to make sure the kid in the basement was still breathing, buy more soda) I wanted to move. My friends and previous job were far away, it was winter and the sort of depression that hangs over that general area of town is only heightened by the gray pallor of the Portland rainy season sky. I wanted a place where I could write and piss under Tungsten. I was hoping for a home, not a dorm.
A friend of mine asked if I wanted to move into his house, located in the heart of hipsterville in Southeast, overlooking several bastions of Americana - the all-night drugstore, a gas station, the library. The house was inhabited by my friend and two other men, both of whom I knew peripherally from my favorite vegan restaurant and bar where they work. It’s hard to explain the interconnectedness of the house and its landlord, its residents, and the owners of the vegan joints but suffice it to say, I was about to become the adopted kid sister to a bunch of guys that I thought were maybe the coolest people I’ve ever met. And I do mean cool in that high-school way; these are guys who are covered from head-to-toe with ink, who fix up classic cars on the weekend, who keep skateboards, guitars, and rusted tools on the walls as decoration. A few of them speak with a Southern drawl. They were friends in high-school. All of them have the name of the bar tattooed on their body, a sign of brotherhood and badassery that I can barely fathom.
Now, this slate gray house isn’t a palace, mind you. It might be the living, moving, breathing equivalent of Suicide Girls for the female sect but it ain’t pretty. There’s no furniture in the living room, we have a hot plate instead of a kitchen, and my ceiling is unfinished, with watermarks that seem to indicate where someone’s hiding the bodies. There’s the grill to a car and an organ (of the musical variety) on my front porch. Up until a few days ago the lawn was so overgrown with weeds that the mini-greyhound who lives with us was rendered invisible when she scampered about taking a pee.
I live in a dude ranch.
But I like it. All three of the guys I live with are like characters out of the graphic novel-esque adulthood I imagined for myself as a sophomore at Friends Academy. I sometimes spend my nights watching European car racing with one of the guys and then spend the morning discussing the merits of different strippers and porn stars with another. My boyfriend gets along with them. And the kind of squalor we live in doesn’t require a feminine touch. They piss with the door open. It’s home.
When I unpacked I took the hall closet as my own. There was nothing in it and it was the closest storage area to my room, even though it was “common space.” I threw my shit in it, the same way I always do, a tangled clump of clothing and a few random items like a duffel bag and a bike lock mixed in. Although both my room and my closet did not have a lock, and I had heard the story about how a bike had been stolen out of the house when two of the three roommates were home, I felt safe. I don’t have anything of value at this point in my life, so unless some meandering meth head is going to shove my cellphone charger, my boyfriend, or my thesaurus into his pockets, I didn’t feel that the safety of my stuff was compromised at all. Besides, these guys are large and scary looking. The kind of men mothers on suburban Long Island have nightmares about their daughters marrying. The kind of guys Bravo and A&E film reality shows about in order to market rough-and-tough testosterone to those who have none.
A few days into my residence here I had to get dressed up for something, probably a failed job interview. I donned my favorite girlie outfit of skirt-ripped-up-shirt-and-fishnets and went to leave. That’s when I saw the dried vanilla frosting on my tights. And then my skirt. And my shirt.
I was in a conversation with the original friend who led me to this house when I noticed it. I speculated that it was either confection or a human secretion of the male variety. He concurred.
“It’s not me,” he said.
I was grossed out but vowed to be more vigilant with my laundry. It wasn’t like me to, um, overlook that kind of thing. I might be more like a boy than a girl but I still have basic hygienic concerns and don’t like sauntering around wearing a stained outfit, let alone one stained with DNA of an unknown origin.
I told my boyfriend and laughed about it. Though we collectively couldn’t remember the situation or circumstances that would have led to this sort of carelessness, it was funny to think that we were still juvenile or love-struck enough to have souvenirs. I washed every article of clothing I owned and was meticulous about where stuff-covered-stuff went. In my OCD I developed a foolproof system. These towels are for that and they go here. Always.
So the other day when I found a pair of my tights at the bottom of my closet covered in spunk I was not amused. (Also, we were out of detergent, the purchasing of which is not my responsibility.) I told my boyfriend. I told my girlfriends. I was more cranky about it than uncomfortable. They are my fucking tights and it’s gross. The washer and dryer are in the basement. I don’t like having to walk up and down two flights of stairs. Etc.
The boyfriend suddenly realized that this could potentially be the sign of something really fucked up, and since he lives too far from me to skateboard over and knock in some teeth if anybody did anything to me in Southeast, he started to freak out. I, of course, am the type of girl who doesn’t worry about this sort of shit being a threat to my safety. Like I said, I just find it gross, not unlike finding a snotty used tissue in my closet. I’m the kind of girl who associates more with men than women, I was predominately a dyke for ten years or so, and I do not take well to men trying to protect me. The boyfriend and I started fighting about it. This is while we’re dealing with a sudden (and welcome) influx of new freelance clients, the investment in our first office space, and the logistics of adding me to his company. Fighting about man-mayonnaise while discussing deadlines isn’t productive or fun. It’s been a rough week.
I used two pink push-pins and put up a sign on my closet door that reads DON’T SPUNK IN MY STUFF. When asked why the sign was there by one of the guys I replied that I hadn’t set that parameter and just wanted to make it clear. I can’t believe that it’s one of them - I don’t believe that it’s one of them, I can’t bring myself to - but just in case it is one of my roommates and not the random dictionary stealing meth head I figured I’d cover all of my bases. And keep my tights in a Ziploc bag.
A few of my friends told me to move, I replied that I can’t deal with anymore upheaval, financial or otherwise, right now. Besides, I honestly don’t feel threatened, which maybe I’ll regret in the future, but I doubt it. My boyfriend offered to have me stay with him but since the last time we shacked up nearly resulted in one of those cage match Ultimate Fighting specials I think I’ll take the risk and just buy an extra bottle of Tide and try not to think about the other implications of the wash setting Large Load.
So sorry for the “dog ate my homework” post as to why Jerk Ethic has appeared to be devoid of work ethic. I’ve been busy - with actual work and stuff - so instead of writing about cum-covered sluts I’ve been one. Also, one of the guys forgot to pay the internet bill so I’ve been offline at home. But I swear I’ll write about writing about sex…or write about working with someone who seems like they’re going to kick ass in your name one minute and simply kick your ass the next…or writing about job interviews in vintage convertible Triumph Spitfires…on a more regular basis, as soon as the internet is back up and I’ve finished doing laundry.
Postscript: Since typing this out I’ve discovered that my room has ants. Anybody looking for a roommate?