Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pigs & Other Swine

"Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer—except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs." Animal Farm

Future historians and biographers will look back and realize that this last week was noteworthy for me because it marked the acquisition of my fifth and sixth major freelance clients. In this business, like most, it's a simple case of more equals better.

The first new client came through A., my stalwart freelance agency. It was a massive, in-depth project for CL involving their pending reunion, and I went over the class notes and bios for their alumni. Altogether I did seven different books, representing seven different graduating classes, which described what these lawyers have accomplished so far in their careers, as well as personal lives. So obviously the further back you go in time, the more there is to brag on; thus the 1967 and '62 classes had more to talk about than the relatively recent '87 or '92 people did. I'm not gonna sit here and tell you it was fascinating, but each life is almost like a small short story if you read between the lines, even though 90 percent of them were unbelievably pretentious, right down to the atrocious names they bestow on their oh-so-gifted/special offspring, including some of my (non)favorites: Skyler, Hortencia, Pilar, Atticus, Quintin, Hunter, Fabian, Brynn, Mona & Lisa (get it?), Lomax and Fabian. Great. Your pretentiousness just bought these poor kids a lifetime of schoolyard taunts and gym class beat-downs, not to mention years of ultimately fruitless clinical therapy. Anyway, about halfway through the project the client offered me more work (another book).

Now, all my clients have used me repeatedly, but honestly, the woman who I dealt with at CL was a total bitch and I may turn down the next job from her. I rushed to meet her ridiculous deadline, with not even a cursory fucking "thank you" when I called to ask if she received the last of the books I sent. She's the type who probably kisses the asses of all the lawyers and such she deals with, but feels free to treat other people like peons. The more I think about it, she can kiss my white ass the next time. I put in 10 hours on her precious project on Wednesday; then, in addition to working my usual shift at LT last Thursday, I went home and put anoth
er five hours in Thursday night, almost five more on Friday morning to meet her 1:00 pm deadline--then another almost four hours between Friday night and early Sunday morning on the last book!

Incidentally, I discovered that freelance clients actually pay double whatever I get for my services; in other words, if I'm getting 25 bucks an hour from Client A, they're paying A. 50 bucks an hour. I realize that's a lot of pesos, and a client has a right to expect a high degree of competence, expertise and hard work in return. But perfection? That's just a standard that's impossible to meet. I would challenge anyone, even a Mensa member, to have done any better under the circumstances.

(I realize I'm a little tightly wound lately, and maybe I just need a vacation...)

Now, I don't wanna cut off my rather bulbous nose to spite my ruggedly weathered facade, but I do have my pride and I do have my limits. You don't wanna get on my bad side. I mean, going over almost 200 pages of copy, much of it absolute gibberish with no consistency in terms of format, you're just not gonna catch everything, and she picked out one minor thing and beat me over the head with it. Actually, I was the one who discovered an inconsistency in the way I was punctuating a college degree and informed her about it midway through the project. Then she totally overreacted and sent me a nasty e-mail telling me I was "sloppy"!

In the beginning when I took on the assignment she was so grateful, telling me how difficult it was and how sh
e had tried doing it but gave up, saying, "That's why I called you!" Then as it went on she became colder and colder. To the point where now she can go to hell and take all her lawyers and attorneys with her. There. I got it out and boy do I feel better. Call me unprofessional if you like. But you can ask any of my present clients if they're happy with me and they will all say yes. In fact, I can't wait for her to come calling again just so I can make up and excuse and turn them down. As long as they pay me for what I already did, I'm done with them. Just another good reason to hate lawyers and hate Ivy Leaguers, I guess.

I've been at LT since June, that's where I sit today, arriving a half-hour or so early for my 9:30 shift. S., the ad agency, used me as recently as a week ago, and they were the first to call for my services. CB was also an early client, and I was there for a one-day project as recently as late January. That's a favorite of mine because I like the Upper West Side--the neighborhood brings back a lot of memories for me because I went to high school right around there, my favorite punk club Hurrah's was right down the block, and my high school sweetheart Debbie Ellen Epstein (now a lawyer like her dad Milton, who had no use for me because I wasn't Jewish--true dat!) lived in the vicinity; also, CB almost always has a decent spread of free food that I can partake in, not a little thing for us struggling artist types. And V, while only using me for that one day back in November, did ask for my services as recently as a week ago. You'll recall that I was a little disappointed that I wasn't able to fit them in because of prior commitments, but that worked out well because a few days later the CL deal arrived at my doorstep. And of course LT has been the base upon which all the other things revolve; the network that bills itself Television for Women (among many other things) has been nothing but good for this old dude.

My sixth client came out of the blue. As I mentioned last week, my friend Kate just got a new position at Mc-E, the giant ad agency. She works out of Pennsylvania, but has contacts at the Manhattan branch as well, and she's gonna try to get me work there in the future. But for now I'm helping her on a campaign for a new drug launch. She sent me a package that I received last Friday, about 60 pages copied from PowerPoint representing the slide presentation they're gonna roll out, and I went over it and sent it back to her on Saturday. And while it was only three hours of work, the per-hour rate is the most money I have ever made per hour--almost twice my usual freelance rate if you can believe that. I think I was a help to them because I did catch a few major things. Kate promised me a lot of work in the next few weeks as their project gets closer to liftoff.

So I spent a lot of time this past week and weekend at my local Internet cafe. I had to lay out a lot of money for the time spent online there and printing stuff out to take home and read. Luckily it's a pretty cool place and the people who run it, all young Greek kids, are really nice and gave me a discount most of the time. For instance, one day I spent 2 1/2 straight hours there, then printed out 30 pages, and had two cups of tea and the guy only charged me 8 dollars. Not bad, because I was expecting like 15 bucks, since the going rate is a buck for 15 minutes. As Kate said, I really need to start saving up for a computer, specifically a laptop, so that I c
an take on large-scale projects for Kate and other clients, as well as blog more frequently and spontaneously.

The upshot is that this will be my most lucrative check ever not only from A., but now I can expect a check almost weekly from the good folks at McC. Ironically, I almost had McC in the fold last summer as they needed someone for the July 4th weekend and A. sent them my resume, but it turns out they were able to somehow make do without my expertise. Hey, it happens.

(Spoke Too Soon Dept. Just when I thought it was safe to trumpet my good fortune, it turns out I may not be paid for the CL project this week as my contact at A. for that specific job, has been out sick since late last week, and she's apparently the one who has to bill the client; at least for now it looks like Murphy and his cursed Law have conspired against me once again, because it turns out I was counting on that check in its entirety (as Ralph Kramden once said) to catch up on a flotilla of outstanding bills arrayed against me.)

So it looks like I made the correct decision last June--a major life turning point--when after two days I chose to opt out of a new job as a night clerk (11pm-7am) at the posh Hotel W. on the Upper East Side, paying 15 an hour but with good benefits. At that point I had nothing concrete except a notion that it wasn't gonna work out. Now I had already worked at LT for a week or two, but there was no guarantee that they would end up using me as much as they did. Also, the catering was set to shut down for the summer months, so I didn't even have that irregular income to count on. No, I was out there on a smile & a shoeshine following my aborted attempts at being a market researcher (7-something an hour! working 5-11pm on Union Square), shipping clerk for a friend's company (10 bucks an hour), gold coin salesman (no income to speak of), temping (one day's work at Cornell Medical Center, 13 an hour), and catering (20 an hour), working my ass off serving food to the privileged denizens of the ruling class, after witnessing my unemployment benefits run out (405 per week) in early 2006. The accompanying stress and frustration was building up like a volcano with no end in sight; the job interviews were few and far between and always fruitless--the interviewers perhaps sensing my desperation and sending me packing, including Penthouse magazine, Capital Group and Bloomberg Books. The publishing agencies were likewise all but useless, notably Lynne Palmer, who got me just the one interview with Capital over months and months. I wish them only the worst.

Anyway, enough negative rehashing for now. I expect the Year of the Pig to hold nothing but positives for me going forward. Here's hoping I am awash in a sea of filthy lucre. Because after all, in the end it's nothing but a swindle. A ROTTEN SWINDLE!

One last thing to note on this day, February 20: today makes exactly three years since my mom passed away, on a Friday night, all by herself, in a hospital room, a horrible way for anyone to go, following a series of long, debilitating illnesses, including two strokes and other heart & lung problems. People say time heals all wounds, she's in a better place, or other such platitudes, but in truth it never gets any easier. Miss you, Mom. You were always there for us in big and little ways that I can never do justice to. Your heart was as big as the biggest ocean.

1 comment:

jimithegreek said...

ahh...told you it was gonna be a good year! Now get your passport ready, there may be a mexico trip in your future!