I’m going to take the time I spent using the freelance work websites and put that back into writing query letters to traditional print magazines. A query letter a day seems manageable; we shall see if I can do it. I continue to consider video and in the background I have a good idea for an app. In my personal life, learning to ride a motorcycle is my latest challenge. Like on a bike, the goal in freelancing is to move forward, stay stable, and keep learning. Onward!
I’m giving up on the three freelance sites I was using: freelancer.com, elance.com, and Guru.com. None of them provide enough feedback to warrant any more bids. You bid, you wait, and you wait some more. The deadline for submitting passes but in the great majority of cases, you hear nothing further about the project. You have no idea if the work was awarded or if the assignment was cancelled. Nothing.
I like the idea of freelance sites, but until they can provide constructive feedback I think they are not worth bothering with. In particular, I would not tailor a query to the job in question, as I did with so many bids. Personalizing a proposal, while always a good idea in the print world, will not get you any positive results compared to a generic application. If I were running these sites I would require the employers to detail when the work was assigned, if at all, the winning bid, and the people that got the work.
Transparency is badly needed and without it I won’t be using these sites any longer.
May 6, 2015 update: Freelancer.com finally provides some honesty. In an e-mail, they disclose the following. “On average, it takes more than 35 bids to get a job.” 35! This reaffirms my thinking that it is as tough to get a freelance position as it is to get a regular job. You need patience, persistence, and, as always, some luck.
May 20, 2016 update: Flexjobs.com appears to be a legitimate freelance site. I write about it here (internal link)
Many maintain that the United States suffers from a shortage of skilled technology workers and that we need overseas help. The National Review and The Atlantic, however, report just the opposite. My take is that there are plenty of American workers in any industry, at any time, just as eager to work as anyone in India, Mexico, or Pakistan. The difference is that an American cannot work for an Indian wage.
The graphic below shows a job listing on Guru.com. An American employer, obviously seeing the low wages accepted by foreigners, now wants to employ someone for less than the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. He’d like it even better, of course, if you worked for his low budget figure of $1.00 an hour.
I am sure this employer wants his business respected, his customers well treated, and his growth to be substantial. In all aspects I am sure he wants his business thought of as professional. But how professional is this? How can you pay someone less than McDonalds or WalMart while maintaining respect toward your workers? At a wage below the poverty level? That pay might help you in Bangalore, but it is worthless in America.
When I wrote about telecom I met many people in the computer and technology fields. Now that I freelance, I meet many writers. There’s no shortage of either. What is rare? Employers willing to pay a living wage. That’s the real shortage.
I am not getting any new freelance work, either on-line or off. Sigh. I continue to query but at the same time I am working on learning new skills which may make me more valuable. Video is exciting and I’ve taught myself enough to make short films. What’s next? I am learning to make an app. It’s more intimidating than video, with screen displays like what you see below. Never-the-less, I think the process is approachable. Even if I fail with the most difficult part, working with the code, perhaps I can storyboard the app, prepare the icons, and arrange for its content. But I won’t dismiss the coding part just yet.
Decades ago, when I last looked at programming, high level, word-oriented languages like Pascal existed but they were maddeningly difficult to work with. The slightest missing semi-colon or bracket would leave your code dead on arrival when you tried to run it. By comparison, a program like Xcode, the chief way to author apps for Apple’s mobile operating system, has built in correcting methods that follow you line by line. Forget that bracket? Xcode glares at you like a spell checker, noting a problem with that line. It may even highlight the word or phrase that is bothering it, letting you puzzle over a solution before you leave it behind. Can’t remember exactly how to type NSViewController? A prompt runs in front of most phrases as you type them, showing their proper spelling.
But I am getting ahead of myself. You don’t have to deal with Xcode immediately. I’m learning a different approach at buzztouch.com. You first rough out your app, using the buzztouch control panel, which features a graphic and menu driven style. Apple and Android code are both generated in the background while you build the basics of your app. You later download this source code and open it using either the iOS software development kit, the Android SDK, or both. From this point you can run your app in an Apple or Android simulator. Tweaks and corrections are applied directly to the SDK, with no need to go back control panel. Sound confusing? It is, at first, and right now I am still learning the basics. What really helps are BT’s free video tutorials.
After you register you can take these tutorials in order, getting tested on each one along the way. Even if I don’t complete an app I will feel good about learning how they are constructed. And, as I suggested in the first paragraph of this post, I could concentrate on what I could do in an app, leaving the rest to others. You’ll find plenty of them in the buzztouch community, which seems a friendly and welcoming place. Will I become a paid member of BT? I don’t know yet, but I like their site and I definitely will join if I go further with my app idea.
Have you ever noticed the people with pictures in Google search results? Wondered how to do that? You first need a Google account but that isn’t hard to do. You can then go to Google.com to learn about this program by clicking on this link. The Google Authorship program ties your content to yourself. Very nice.
It’s easy to set up if you own or control a domain with a matching e-mail account. In my case I do not have that. I have the domain thomasfarleyblog.com but my e-mail address is email@example.com. In that case, Google’s program makes it somewhat complicated for you to claim authorship privileges.
Fortunately for WordPress users, you can go to your Dashboard, click on “Settings” and investigate the “Sharing” settings. You’ll want to investigate the “Publicize” and “Google+Profile” areas. Do both. Check out, too, in this section, the many other ways that you can extend the reach of your WP blog. LinkedIn and Facebook are just two of the options you can plug into your blog. BTW, thanks much to the great support staff at WP for helping me figure this out.
May 15, 2014 update: While I think the link with Google is working, it still is not putting my photo with my search results. I will continue to investigate.
Wither the web? This article from mobilewebsite.name discusses the future of the web. The accompanying graphics, one in particular supplied by Flurry Analytics, show that apps are garnering most of the time spent on the internet, compared to people seeking content through websites.
An app is a better bookmark, it directs you to a particular place on the web, and then delivers information tailored specifically to your mobile device. TMZ viewed on an iPad will look differently, sometimes radically so, than on a desktop computer. Margins, photos, and text are aligned correctly and for a small screen. If the article is true, far more people now rely on apps to access the net rather than using a browser like Safari. With this in mind I am going to investigate building an app. I have a good idea but will I be able to construct something useful and professional looking? Apple’s App Store is getting more and more restrictive with the apps they allow. And will I be able to afford it? Apple takes 30% of what is charged. Will I be able to price my product reasonably while still being able to recover my development costs? I’ll share what I learn as I go.