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4/7/10

Rule #3, Don't Specialize!

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. 

Specialization is for insects.


-Robert A. Heinlein


Falling Down

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OK! The first of my 5 Rules; #1.a, One point Two and 2.1 aren't all that much fun, in part because they go against everything we were raised to believe it means to be an American, namely, do the right thing so you can buy more stuff than the Jones. I say stuff is an addiction and competing with the Jones for stuff is the root of unhappiness - why do you think the slang for addiction is "Jones"?  [I don't know if thats the reason or not but it fits my purpose perfectly!]

My first two rules, Don't Buy and Don't Borrow eliminate the need to pay interest to buy unending piles of worthless stuff so you don't blow a gasket like Douglas did in Falling Down. Now you can start getting to the fun part: reducing and diversifying your income. This is really the best part of living on the edge. For many years I struggled and sweated through my cheap dress shirts trying to make a little more money, first working for someone else on salary, then in my own business. Every time I succeeded in making more money I got a bigger mortgage, ran up more CC bills, bought (and replaced and replaced) ever more throwaway stuff. All the while I thought I was doing what I wanted but I was mostly just paying the Stupid Tax that keep the Bread and Circus Show on the air.

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Just one word...

Mr. McGuire was right, plastics were the future, but they'll be past soon enough. What's the word now?

 Telecommuting. I'm no guru and I have no crystal ball but that's my prediction anyway. I have a diversified income but my primary tool (most years) is a computer and internet connection. If you do any portion of your daily grind on a computer you can probably find a way to make a living anywhere you can get a connection. I can't express how convinced I am that one day not to distant, the current model of "driving till you qualify" for the size home you desire, then driving back in to work everyday will be untenable for a variety of reasons.

Telecommuting is great for rules 1 and 2 too, because it eliminates a wide variety of stuff from your debit column, from commute expenses (you know, like a car and gas) to clothes, to restaurant meals, to child care. Seriously you can save a ton of money by not having a "Job". It also allows you to design everything about your work life, from hours to t-stat setting to choice of Muzak - I'm listening to Dan Tyminski on some-guy-from-Japan's music list on Last.fm just now.  And as you can see, my office looks like a bordello, which is very soothing.

But best of all telecommuting puts you in charge of your time, get your work done by 6a? Cool, do something else!

And that's the key to making enough cash to keep the tax man away and buy a soda pop here and there, you need to diversify your income. Jobs - and job categories - are increasingly transient, very few people retire with a company pension any more. The last thing you should do is put all your eggs in one basket - the corporation don't do they?

I can't tell you what will work for you. Because we choose to live in the country, in addition to graphics we raise calves, do some odd jobs - carpentry, general farm labor (GASP! and a white man too!), wrenching, upholstery, sewing, sell some vegetable starts and excess produce, some hay once in a while (though I hate selling off fertility) and we're always casting around for something new - that we we like to do.

Another advantage of telecommuting is disconnecting income from cost of living. IOW, I can live in SW MO, with an extremely low cost of living, yet do work for clients in and at rates a shade below what I'd get in the Bay Area of CA - which I do (sometimes).

The flip side of that is if I can work from the Ozarks, someone else can work from Bangladesh and undercut me as well, I've tried eLance.com and Freelancer.com and I have gotten some work but it's tough. But the cat's out of the bag on that one. Whether you live in LA; Gutwater, Missouri and your job can be done over a cable it will be done from a cheaper place one day. You might want to think about that. My best advice is to get yourself a good rep (if you do freelance like me) or make yourself valuable in a way someone in Chindia can't before your job goes that way without you.


Working at the edge of the rich world takes a little bit of courage if you've been a company man your whole life. But this isn't your fathers world anymore and playing their game doesn't always pan out. Homo evolved to be the King of Adaptation, it's time to take advantage of your genes.

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5 comments:

hickchick said...

Nice series-Edgy Rules. Thanks -I need them right now. I am finding the old hamster wheel hard to get off!
Did you get the e-mail about starting a pasture from 'scratch'?
Kris

Pops said...

It's hard to jump.

I did have a steady job for about a dozen years when the kids were small but otherwise mostly freelance ('piece-work' in the manly construction work I did when I was younger) still, I get nervous when the phone quits ringing.

We were talking about grass back in the Orphans thread right? I replied some there but Matron of Husbandry said something on her blog I thought was pretty wise: 'graze animals that like what your land grows' or something like that.

IOW, if your land grows grass well, graze cattle, if it is scrubby, run goats. Chickens'll eat anything that doesn't eat them first but the bigger the variety the better. I have a long post from the past I'll dig up, it might have some good references you can use.

straker said...

I took a look at freelancer and the jobs were too ephemeral and the pay was low. It kind of looks like the digital equivalent of Mexicans hanging around in front of Home Depot.

It's hard to get all jazzed up about jobs that require you to do little more than change a few lines of code in exchange for lunch money. Just the amount of time spent securing deal after deal is wasted effort, like a lion spending all his time chasing down squirrels. Poor ROI.

It was great telecommuting for a year, but I think if I'm not on salary that I'm going to have to find a way to run my own business (b2c) rather than be an independent contractor.

Pops said...

It's true, I spent lots of hours reading and responding to RFPs with few winners - and I was making next to no income at the time.
I was talking with one guy in AU about working on clipping the backgrounds from jewelry photos, color correction, basic stuff. I worked for a jewelry store chain for years so this is something I know and I'm pretty quick.

He told me to give it a shot but he was getting work from china for $2 per shot, I pointed and clicked as fast as I could and might have been able to do 3 shots an hour for a short while.

I'd guess coding is somewhat the same as graphics, in that it's very hard to quote by the hour. I'm no guru but I picked up 2 new clients recently by what the gurus would call networking. My contact at one client went to work at an entirely different type of business - now I have the new client and at least a chance to keep the old (though in my experience that seldom happens).

The other new gig is a provider (magazine) to an existing client (car dealer) who wanted me to help with an ad which led to more ads, then art for the mag as well.

Freelancing is tough if, like me, you aren't a cold caller. I'm good at customer service so I can keep a gig most of the time and I can talk myself into work like the magazine but door knocking just doesn't get done.

Maybe you can find a rep or build a relationship with someone who is good at the part you aren't?

marion said...

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Lucy

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