Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Do You Want to Dance Like a Star?

While I was working last night, I was catching up on my weekly dose of reality television... watching the stars dance... missing Florence Henderson just the teensiest bit... and chuckling over Bristol Palin's introduction as a (insert British voice-over announcer here) teen activist. I guess it does sound better than "single unwed mother." Who knew that she would still be on the show rueing the flaunting of her sexuality on the dance floor when Florence was so obviously shown the door for displaying sexuality at the age of 76 during her sexy Rumba?

But I digress... After hearing Jennifer Grey's review in which Len absolutely trashed her Paso Doble performance... I was clueless. I mean... I caught the mistake that she made towards the end... looked like Derek Hough almost wiped out to me as well... Don't get me wrong... last night's performance was nowhere near her amazing Argentine Tango -- which earned her the first 10s of season 11.

But I didn't think it was THAT bad... !

Check out the instructions on the Mahalo page and see if you can tell where Jennifer went wrong:

How to Dance the Paso Doble

While I didn't think Jennifer Grey's paso was BAD, my favorite paso in DWTS history is Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya's paso from Season 10.

And then when Bristol's tango was praised to the heavens by the judges, I didn't think it came close to Joey Fatone and Kym Johnson's Star Wars tango of Season 4.

Next time you are watching and don't have a clue what Len is talking about... Mahalo offers several pages on DWTS' most popular dances so you can try to understand the judges' scores.

How to Dance the Fox Trot
How to Dance the Jive
How to Dance the Viennese Waltz
How to Dance the Samba
How to Salsa
How to Tango
How to Dance the Argentine Tango
How to Dance the QuickStep
How to Dance the Rumba

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

All Work and No Play?

There are so many "perks" to being a freelancer. The most obvious is that my schedule is pretty flexible. Aside from the ability to lunch with friends or arrange doctor's appointments without asking for time off, I made a decision to move cross country last summer... from the gulf coast of Florida to Rochester, Minnesota. I did not have to worry about quitting a job... or finding one when I got here. I can work for Mahalo from anywhere... so my home office... and my job... moved with me :)

Don't mistake my boastfulness about flexibility for "light" work days. Believe me, they aren't! The hardest part of being a freelancer for me... and having my office only steps from my living and sleeping space... is learning when to call it a day :) The hardest part for others is forcing themselves to work :) My schedule, even though I work for myself from home, is much as it would be if I were working for someone else.

I wake up between 5:30 and 6:00 most days. I take a shower... work out... grab a Slim Fast or breakfast bar... and head to the computer in my home office. There are usually a stack of emails that need to be addressed... and then I begin to edit articles that have been submitted while I was sleeping. That's when the fun starts! I learn about so many different kinds of things that interest me through the course of an average day. Writers submit articles about a wide variety of topics ranging from the latest movies to political figures and saving money in today's economy.

I chat with my work buddies in our IRC chat rooms or on the telephone to compare notes, get advice, ask and answer questions, or just shoot the breeze... much as I would if I were in a traditional office. I love what I do with Mahalo... so the toughest part for me that I am still working on, even after four years of self-employment, is learning when to call it a day.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Evolving Mahalo Freelance Career -- Part 3

Life was good... I was working at Mahalo Monday through Friday... receiving a stable monthly check based on an hourly pay rate... working around 45 hours a week... home for my son and able to spend time with my daughter and new grandson.... in a relationship with someone who was fun and appreciated ME! Life was good at 48 :) And then the other shoe fell. It always does - LOL!

Mahalo sent an email in June that they were discontinuing the remote guide program and beginning a revenue share program that would be based on a percentage of Google earnings on the pages you manage. Instead of earning my comfortable weekly check... it was gonna be dicey! Fortunately, with my experience managing the video games and walkthrough teams, I had learned the finer points of writing a video game walkthrough. My son and I had the best time playing video games that summer. Well... he played... I wrote the step by step instructions to beat the game while watching him. I was earning around $300 for each walkthrough we wrote... and he had practically an unlimited video games budget. Gotta love a tax writeoff. A total win win for me and Sam :)

While I was playing video games, I was learning about how to SEO pages and provide good backlinks... all tools that would help them to keep climbing in the Google search index. When I first managed pages, I was earning a whopping $2 a day! It was pretty nerve wracking! But as my pages gained traction, income on each page slowly began to grow. By the time the revenue share program ended, I was earning approximately $75 per day.

Unfortunately, all people and verticals are not suited to working within the confines of a revenue share program. I still miss it terribly, but am enjoying my latest role with Mahalo... that of the training "manager." I work with a group of really awesome and committed people who are focused on making Mahalo the best content site on the web... and continue to "meet" fun people on a daily basis. Yep! Life is still good -- even at 50 ;)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Evolving Mahalo Freelance Career -- Part 2

After a few months with the "buzz team," I received an email from Mahalo's video game team leader, Mark Burnham. Mark was inviting me to join Mahalo's video games team. Video games? ARRRRRRRRGH! You have GOT to be kidding! Leave the heavenly soap opera world of politics to write about video games? That was on a par with being relegated to Siberia :( It turned out to be the best Mahalo career move possible for me... I just didn't know it yet ;)

The first six months on the video games team were on a par with torture. The days were lonnnnnnnnnng. I had no interest at all in writing about video games. It was all very much like a foreign language :( And then i discovered something... my son (who was 13 at the time) thought I was like the coolest mom EVER. I was speaking his language! Which was pretty exciting. About the time other parents lose touch with their teens, I had found a channel to maintain a relevant relationship with mine. Conversations with video games have easily transitioned into troubles with school... discovering girls... dodging drugs... and all kinds of other issues. It has made parenting a teen a lot more fun for me. And I began to find that some of the games were actually FUN! Discounting the sex mini games in the God of War series of course... (sigh) And I really did know which games were age appropriate -- another HUGE help in the teen parenting world.

And then Mark left :( And the management of the video games team transitioned to me. I spent the next year and a half or so at Mahalo managing the video games team... worked with a great group of eight video games writers and grew the vertical into one that was gradually being recognized in the industry as having quality walkthroughs and other video game related information. I thought that I'd found my niche... but... Mahalo had other ideas ;) More later!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Evolving Mahalo Freelance Career -- Part 1

Remember those blank stares I mentioned earlier? When I mentioned that I work from home? You might be wearing one yourself about now! LOL! It's not that what I do is all that complex, but it is not the norm I guess.

When I started out working for Mahalo in April 2007, I worked in what was called the "Mahalo Greenhouse." The Greenhouse had hundreds of researchers, whose job it was to gather the best resources on a variety of topics. I was paid $10-$15 for each topic that I researched that was approved by the corporate staff. Eventually, the Greenhouse got so big, that Mahalo's corporate team could not ensure quality for all the work that was submitted in a timely manner. A few of us were invited at that point to become Mahalo "mentors." It was the mentor's role to QC submissions and teach new Greenhouse members the proper way to organize a Mahalo page.

Mahalo's Greenhouse was based on mediawiki software... so the work was all very manually intensive. Details were very important as far as maintaining standards. And it was important that we learn wiki code and learn it quickly.

After a few months as a mentor, I was invited to join the Mahalo "buzz team" with my Mahalo buddies Susan and Bunny, who I still work with. (I now manage the Mahalo training program, while Susan heads up the QC team and Bunny leads Mahalo's booming video games vertical). The buzz team was very different than the QC team. The work was exhausting at first! It was our job to keep up with the latest news stories and write summaries about them, and keep them updated. For this work, instead of the piece rate we had grown accustomed to, we were paid a flat hourly rate.... which allowed for steadier paychecks and the return to more of a "normal" life.

I am a total political junkie... so that job was like heaven! Getting paid to monitor CNN and track the latest in politics was like a little big of heaven here on earth! I thought it could not get any better... but Mahalo had something else in mind! More about that later ;)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Life of a Freelancer

A fun part of moving to Rochester from Florida's sunny gulf coast has been meeting new people! Of course one of the first things they ask is "what do you do?" And when I reply that I am work for myself from home, I receive a variety of replies that inevitably begin with a blank stare and end with "You're so lucky!" I guess I am :)

For my first 25 or so years after graduating from college I worked in corporate America... beginning in human resources and ending in information technology. It was not an easy balancing act as I did not have family locally, but was very fortunate to work for people who (for the most part) understood the challenges of single motherhood.

After the tragedy of 9/11 when I was in my early 40s, my industry took a huge hit. As a senior project manager and one of the higher paid staff members on the corporate team, I was one of the first that was let go. What I learned was two-fold: my oldest was graduating from high school and I had missed a LOT while I was earning a living to support my three children, and it isn't as easy to find a job when you are 42 as when you are 22.

i taught myself web design and took on a few clients, but the work came in spurts. It was definitely feast or famine. One of my friends told me about this new website called "Mahalo" that might help to ease the highs and lows of freelance work and keep income on a steadier keel. Mahalo has changed a lot since its early days when my role was to find the best links about a wide variety of topics. Although my income is not what it was in my corporate ladder climbing years, I do enjoy more flexibility and still get to have "watercooler moments" in online chat... I don't think at this point that you could pay me enough to return to the corporate ratrace!

Friday, October 1, 2010

I was wrong! Our elected officials DO look out for us!

And just when I thought our esteemed Senators left us hanging and took off for their recess without doing anything for us common folk... after all... the recess to go home and campaign for their jobs is certainly more important than any "people's business" that I can think of... I find out they ARE focused on our needs by passing some of the most important legislation EVER: Turning down the volume on television commercials! The Senate unanimously passed the most controversial of bills last Wednesday that requires television stations and cable companies to keep commercials at the same volume as the programs they interrupt.

Thank Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. for his hard work in the Senate that requires the FCC to adopt the recommendations as regulations within the next year and to enforce them a year after that. Send your emails to Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., the driving force behind the bill in the House before it's too late. After all, it's past time to stop using loud commercial volume to startle us all into paying attention. WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO WATCH OUT FAVORITE PROGRAMS WITHOUT FEAR OF LOSING OUR HEARING WHEN A SHOW GOES TO COMMERCIAL by god!!! After all, lifting the remote to turn down the volume is much too much work for the likes of me after a hard day's typing in my home office.

Forget health care! Forget the economy! Forget the balanced budget! Federal deficit? National Security? Pffffffffft! It's about time someone went out on a limb, took a stand and addressed these kinds of important issues! Let's all take a moment and thank those selfless brave men and women who take the time to look out for us this way. I sure hope this didn't bump their annual raise from the docket? Now THAT would be a shame!