Friday, August 30, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes!

So, today is a bit of an anniversary of a sort.  A re-birth, even.

A year ago today, I was working as a government sub-contractor as a Webcasting Producer/Director.  The environment was pretty dysfunctional, but the potential experience and financial stability kept me there probably longer than was mentally healthy. 

Well, I was NOT in control of my destiny.  Very suddenly, the Friday before Labor Day weekend, the production company that signed my paychecks told me it would be my last day.  The irony was not lost on me that they decided to take this action right before Labor Day weekend---a holiday that celebrates the American worker, and all of the rights that workers had earned for themselves through history.  I even mentioned it, as I was being let go. 

I had been thinking about what would be next after this position, but didn't realize I'd have to put those balls in motion a bit earlier than I expected.  So I went to a career coach, I re-vamped my resume to reflect the new skills and experience I had obtained on the government job, and basically re-invented myself to the jobs I wanted to seek.  I started cold-calling companies that offered these kinds of jobs and offered to train for free, in expectation that they would add me to their freelance pool.  Anyone who showed any kind of positive response (even if they didn't have an immediate opportunity or need) was contacted periodically, asking when a training opportunity was coming up.  As they say, persistence pays off.  I started working with three new clients within the first four months.  I also resumed my work with two local school systems as a video producer, and continued seeking more live event opportunities and webcasting opportunities. 

In the past 365 days, I've obtained three new clients for regular work, I was the supervising producer for the Regional Emmy Awards, I landed a retainer contract with a national association, and was added to the freelance pool as a webcasting producer for a large DoD contractor.

Through hard work, persistence, and help from my career counselor , I've re-invented myself to even better opportunities than I left a year ago. 

Labor Day celebrates all of the many ways that one can earn a living- whether as an employee, an independent contractor, or an entrepreneur.  I think it also celebrates the many ways that one can FIND the ways that they can earn a living.  These are not the same thing.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Freelancing and Health Insurance

Today's post was inspired by a survey that's currently in the arts community about health insurance.  I encourage you (if you're reading this before August 31, 2013) to participate in the survey.  Here's the link: 

Now, here's my story.

I have been freelancing for over 10 years.  One of the obstacles my husband and I had to deal with when we both decided to be self-employed was health insurance.  Well, when I started freelancing, he owned his own company.  He had employees.  I could get coverage under his company's policy.  Times change.  He decided to sell his company.  Conveniently, this came at about the same time that I took a contracted position with the government.  A position that offered me health insurance, and coverage for my spouse.  How convenient!

About 8 months later, that job ended.  I was offered COBRA coverage.  My husband, at this point, was working for a Canadian company, as their sole American employee.  Everything was new as to how to deal with this American employee and his health insurance coverage expectation.  A negotiation was made that the Canadian company would simply pay whatever premium we had on the COBRA coverage for both of us to have health insurance.  This was approximately a $650 monthly benefit.  However, we decided to see what other coverage was out there. Was it cheaper than COBRA?  Was it better coverage?  As we embarked on this journey, we were constantly turned down.  We haven't had any surgeries, hospitalizations, serious illnesses.  No, we were turned down because my spouse had been diagnosed with high blood pressure, and I was 3 points over the "bad limit" on cholesterol.  I also had been checked for an ovarian cyst, which wasn't there, and my doctor had submitted a letter stating such, on my behalf.  Didn't matter.  We were now considered too high a risk to get coverage.

Money wasn't the issue.  We make enough together to pay for any kind of coverage we could get.  But we simply couldn't get ANY coverage outside of the COBRA coverage, because we were too much of a risk.  Wow.

We're now in a spot where my husband will soon be employed under another company that offers American benefits, including health insurance.  Without this life change, our alternative would have been to simply shop the new health exchanges in 2014, when the COBRA ran out.  I wasn't concerned about that option, when I knew we had it.  At least we would HAVE coverage.  The alternative would have been that we would be a more-than-middle-class family that couldn't get health insurance.  There's definitely something wrong with that picture.

I have trouble understanding why so many people are against the health care reform changes ahead for 2014.  I do feel that many of those people likely already have health insurance coverage, and won't even see any changes for themselves.  Sure, the reform act may not be perfect, but nothing else acceptable has been passed.  We can't afford to wait any longer for things to change.  

Results of the survey will be posted in September of this year, and I'll be sure to share them here on this blog with you.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lots of jobs out there...are you finding yours?

Well, I was doing my periodic purging of email from my SaneLater box (thanks, Sanebox!) and I came across some pretty interesting things today, in terms of my job searches.

Yes, even though I am self-employed, I am a job searcher.


1.-  you never know if your-I-will-give-up-this-freelance-thing-in-a-heartbeat-if-my-perfect-job-comes-along will be listed (this is like the I-know-we-are-married-but-if-I-have-the-chance-to-be-with-Matthew-McConaughey-we-agree-it-will-be-allowed-one-time-only thing)
2.-  job searching doesn't necessarily mean it's just all full-time jobs.  Proper job hunts include freelance, contract, part-time situations, too.  You can even filter for those!  So you can find your next client that allows you to get that W-2 situation, on an hourly basis, and defer some of your paycheck to offset the taxes you owe from your non-W-2 clients.  This is smart, actually, and I do it.

Anyway, I digress.

So, I'm a regular subscriber to  (which many video pros are), and I was shocked to see there were a whopping 142 job listings!  Ok, none of them were here in DC, but this is a huge number.  There's generally about 30-45.  I don't know if Mandy's done some crazy PR thing, or there's just a lot of openings out there, but this is encouraging, in my mind!

Then, while I was looking at my Dollar Stretcher newsletter, I found there's a whole section for 20 somethings there that included this great article about using social media to find jobs.  It's been my impression lately that young people don't know much more than social media, when it comes to their idea of networking.  I could be wrong.  But I was intrigued to see what those 20 somethings are doing that I need to compete with.  One very interesting job search tool mentioned was Glassdoor.  This can allow you to put in a company that you want to work with, and it will scour your Facebook friends to connect who you know that already is working there (or worked there in the past).  For larger companies, you can see salary info for specific jobs (all submitted anonymously by other Glassdoor users).  Seems pretty awesome.  It seems to have a lot of potential, and seems to be a good non-traditional way to research companies, and who you might know that works/has worked there.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What's a Producer Anyway?

So, I got this question asked of me the other day.

I like to compare a producer to a general foreman on a construction job.

So, let's say you want to build a house.  The foreman has to ask lots of questions like:  how big you want the house, when do you want it built by, where do you want to build it, what are the most important features for the house, what kind of money do you have to spend on the house, etc.

After he gets all his questions answered in the initial process, he works with an architect, day laborers, inspectors, etc., to create the house you were picturing....within budget, and hopefully, on time.  His job is to understand all of the problems that could occur, and ensure all of the people involved show up, do what they're supposed to, and he also interfaces with the client along the way to let them know how their housebuilding project is going.

In the corporate video world, that's a good analogy to a corporate video producer.  In Hollywood, it's not the same.  Someone with "producer" in their name may just be in charge of the budget.  Or they're supervising the shooting days.  Or they're just finding a studio to show the film, and trying to get funding.

I don't work in Hollywood.  I work in DC.  When I wear the "Producer" hat, it's a lot of roles in one...but generally, I'm making sure my client's project is on time, on budget, and is "what they are picturing".

So it's not really fair to call a producer up and say, "I want to make a five minute video.  How much does that cost?".  Would you call a builder up and say, "I'd like to build a five bedroom house.  How much does that cost?"?