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Walker, Taxes Ranger

I was happy to discover June Walker's zesty tax column and your well-designed, informative Web magazine. Though June is my real-life tax consultant, I'm glad to find that there's a source for regular doses of her wisdom online. It's comforting to my finances just to see her face on the screen.

Meanwhile, she drew me to look at the magazine, which looks like another thing I have to add to my short list of regularly visited Web sites.

That is, if I know what's good for me.

Stuart Bernstein

A Big Fan of the Craps and Jerks

Lawrence San makes me laugh.

What I enjoy most about reading his inSANity columns is his natural storyteller's voice -- with all the "craps" and "jerks" and similar words included. That's the way people talk. His example of an overly formal cover letter was great.

Anyway, I wanted to let San know that people enjoy reading his work and that his writing is good.

Lisa Bess Kramer

IP Envy and Blame Magnets

I checked out your site for the first time, and the column What They Say About You After You Leave the Room impressed me. Congratulations to Nancy Austin! I'll certainly use the site as a resource after reading this piece.

Thanks for touching on the issue of some wage slaves having "IP envy" and using IPs as "blame magnets." My tendency towards optimism often makes me overlook these realities. And I love that Gore Vidal quote! I'm going to use it.

Andrew Simms

Booted Off the Fence

San's Booted from the Womb was a great column.

I've been sitting on the fence about leaving my job for the insecure world of an IP. Over the past few weeks, I've leaned strongly in the direction of IP-hood. Although being an IP will be tough, it will also have the most rewards.

Thanks for writing an article which confirms for me that, while I have a lot to lose as an IP, I have a ton more to gain. Working for an employer can really kill creativity, in my opinion.

Dan Mouck

Kudos from Brudos

I'm quite sure my ex-wife would think I had written the column The Better You Are, The Longer It Takes, if she had the curiosity to find it and could gather the energy to read it. I've always thought of myself as being really good at what I do, too, even though it seems, the better I get, the longer it takes. At least my kids still think I'm the greatest! A fun piece.

By the way, I found your column while I was screwing around, doing self-indulgent stuff…

Geo Brudos

World's Shortest Letter

Are you serious?

Amy Rioux

World's Second Shortest Letter

Well, I married a co-worker.


The Path to Success

The Canvas Man was an excellent article for anyone who is starting out in the illustration field. It does three important things: it paints the artist, Tim O'Brien, as a basically normal person with a lot of common sense; it gives insights into the atmosphere of the field; and it explains what it takes to get to where he is. I am a high school art teacher, and I believe articles like this are necessary for inspiring young talent as well as deflecting misconceptions about the field -- not all artists are starving. Yes, O'Brien's talent is extraordinary, but his path to becoming a success was not.

Roman Buddemeyer

Excuses, Excuses

Nancy Austin's column What They Say About You After You Leave The Room confirmed what I had suspected many times -- people are often looking for any reason to write you off and not give you a gig.

I am a particularly shy person and don't make a good first impression.People usually give me a bogus excuse as to why I didn't land a gig or why they're asking me to leave after a few hours on the job. One time they told me I lost a gig because I hadn't ever used a piece of software for their particular purpose. (I was an expert in using that software.)

I've been tested without even realizing they'd tested me until afterwards, when the job didn't work out. They asked, "No one has been able to find the reason this won't work. Can you?" I didn't find the solution fast enough, and that became their excuse for saying I didn't know my stuff. Also, I was once let go the day after I disagreed with an employee on whether or not to use a particular technique.


Sizing Them Up

I very much enjoyed Eric Adams' column on using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator on the job. I have been fascinated with the MBTI for many years, and just a basic understanding of it has helped me to accept and appreciate many co-workers who would have otherwise been difficult to work with.

Thank you for an interesting piece.

Trish Nitshke

Starting Over

After being self-employed for nearly 20 years, I sold my business three years ago.

Since that time I have tried to secure employment or become a consultant, but have run into a brick wall. Why? Beats me.

Some interviewers admit that they are afraid to hire someone who has been self-employed. Others implied that they are concerned about how I would fit in their present office staff.

I'm 61 years old. Any suggestions?

Joe Kozak

This situation is difficult to analyze because there are so many independent variables operating simultaneously. Let's think about a few of them.

First of all, you say you're trying to secure employment (a wage-slave job) or become a consultant. Are you offering both possibilities simultaneously to the same prospective employer/client? In most cases, that would be a mistake. It depends on a lot of factors, including what field you're in, but in general, don't present yourself as "either a job-hunter or a consultant" simultaneously to the same prospect. Nobody wants to hire an employee who's going to consume training resources, and then abandon the employer a few months later for a freelance business. Conversely, nobody wants to contract with a "consultant" who's going to abandon the client as soon as a "real job offer" surfaces. It might make sense to look for both wage-slave jobs and freelance gigs -- but keep that dual strategy to yourself. (It's fine that you told us, of course, but we're family.) For each prospect, make a choice on which simple story to tell. (It doesn't have to be the same choice with each prospect, but keep track of who's who so you don't stick your foot in your mouth.)

You mentioned companies' reluctance to hire someone who's been self-employed for a long time. That stupid prejudice definitely exists, but somewhat less so than in the past. Typically, start-ups and other entrepreneurial companies should be less prejudiced in this respect. Are you only pitching yourself to large, mature companies? That could be a mistake.

Another issue that you don't mention directly is age prejudice. It can be hard for a person your age to find a job under any circumstances. We don't have an easy answer for that one, but in general, there should be less age prejudice against consultants than against employees -- since the consultants are less likely to be tied in to the company's benefits system (especially health care and retirement), and more likely to be hired for their sheer wisdom or skills in a certain area.

There's also the possibility that the real problem is something else about how you're presenting yourself, something you haven't mentioned at all because you're not even aware of it. It's not uncommon for prospects not to tell you what's really bothering them, so they point to an obvious excuse (such as, in your case, a thin resume). That's where an employment counselor, agent, or even a savvy and brutally honest friend might be able to help you with personal feedback.

Your best bet might be to become a consultant in the field you were running a business in... but you may have to establish some credibility beyond just the fact that you were in that business for twenty years. A few ways to do this: do some free consulting work for charities or other non-profits to get your feet wet; volunteer to do some public speaking; or try to get some articles published in a trade journal in your field.

Write in again and let us know if any of these ideas helped. Good luck!

Lose the Bad Attitude

Help IPs go into their workplaces (however temporary) with a positive energy field, for crying out loud. Give them what they need to get respect and garner cooperation for their project even though they don't have a permanent ID badge.

I've been a free agent since 1988 and would be happy to mentor anyone who is having problems in their "temporary" workplace. I've seen too many consultants and interim workers and temporaries and contract workers come in with an attitude and a chip on their shoulder (usually a result of low self-esteem); they get nothing positive accomplished because of it.

Love your inSANity columns, by the way. Just tired of the "get no respect," "they're dissin' me," "I hate these people" stuff. It gets you nowhere fast.

Molly Lay

A Word of Advice for Card-Carrying IPs

Perhaps this isn't the kind of feedback you're looking for, but here goes: I think you missed a great opportunity to drive home the points of your article Don't Leave Home Without It by using real examples of good business cards to illustrate it. I didn't find the jokey examples you chose funny -- which anyone could overlook -- but they were also poor matches for the article's tone and content.

As a designer, I see both shining and appalling examples of business-card design regularly. You would have done your readers a great service by showing real-life specimens (with emphasis on the shining examples). Failing that, you might have whipped up some dummy cards that fleshed out important points.

I also think you'd have done your readers a service by recommending that they hire (or barter with) a designer to create cards (and, presumably, a complete set of business paper). The unfortunate fact is that today lots of folks have at their fingertips the tools to create business cards without the training or experience to know how to do it well. I'd bet that you could probably trace many of the bad examples the writer cites to that very problem. A professional designer would be able to help clients tease out what needs to be on the card, and would be able to develop a design that sells the IP in precisely the ways the article's experts recommend.

Steve Wolf
Boston, Mass.

The Rules

"Been there, done that," was my reaction to Eric Adams' column on finger pointers. One should be armed with knowledge of his industry in order to protect himself. I have encountered many people in a position of power, from CEOs to MBAs, who, quite frankly, don't understand their own industry.

As a designer, here are a few rules that I adhere to:

  1. Know the client before you commit.

  2. Clearly state the rules of the project.

  3. Do not be afraid to demand a press proof if your work is going to print. If they say the job will be run at 3:00 a.m., tell them you'll be there.

  4. A must -- include an "author's changes clause" in the contract.

  5. Get signatures on proofs and changes at all times; make no exceptions on this one.

I have had printers forget to use one plate and go ahead with the job anyway, thinking the mistake would not be noticeable. Needless to say, they had to reprint the job at their own cost, since they had no signature authorizing the job (see #5).

Tony Ortenzi

Mother Teresa

The article VP For Hire was written especially for me! As a mother of three with 12 years in the media industry, I am having many of the feelings and motivations experienced by the subject of this article, Teresa Kersten. The article will provide me with food for thought and a rough template for my next move within the next few months.

Again, great resource. Keep up the good work!

Molly M. Cantrell

Go Ahead, We Can Take It

Your columns are too busy being clever to be useful and too long. Most people don't have all day to read this stuff.

Stephen Fluharty

Mean, Stupid, Or Just Plain Difficult?

As a Web designer currently working with a difficult client, it was heartening to read On The Edge of the Cliff. I really related to Sue Dodge's experience and appreciated the article. Often, those of us who do freelance work or contract out our services are left in a vulnerable position that is little understood. I love my work, but I get tired of dealing with inexperienced, unknowledgeable clients. Some of them are great, but every once in a while you run into a real loser. My current client fits into that category.

I'm about ready to throw in the towel with this client but hesitate because I don't want to leave them in the lurch. My partner has this quote which fits them: "Don't put down to maliciousness that which can be attributed to stupidity." I'd like to believe that these people are neither malicious nor stupid, but they are difficult -- unfortunately for me. I've been designing Web pages for five years, and I've always had great clients and have never needed a contract. This project has taught me the value of a Web site design agreement.

Deidra Morrison

Money (That's What I Want)

The inSANity column on the purpose of money was a nice piece, the first one I've read. I always thought money was God's way of getting me off my woman, out of bed, and into the studio. But now I know I was wrong, God has nothing to do with it.

San wrote that money can be a way of "attaining power (that is, reducing the freedom of others)." I am not sure I agree with this; it sounds a lot like the ancient sorcerer's way of thinking. True power is the conversion of potential energy (knowledge) into kinetic energy (actions) in a direction (plan) to achieve one's goals. How this affects your own freedom and the freedom of others depends on whether your heart is on the dark side (Darth Gates) or the light side (the rest of us).

Mike Ament

Starting Out

It was profoundly encouraging to read Big Plan on Campus and see a career unfold and build, as I have officially been an independent for an entire week. The start-up I was working for lost its funding, I had jobs in the pipeline, and I just knew it was time. The story was encouraging, and I appreciated the level of detail provided on Tony Blackett and his career in architecture.

I worked for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill early in my career, and as I read about how he approaches projects, I couldn't help but imagine he is probably much happier than the architects I used to work with.

Elizabeth Hepola

Check Your Ego at the Door

I thought Nancy Austin's column on how not to blow a client meeting/pitch was hysterical. Mind you, the content was also very informative.

I'm returning to contract work after a cushy stint with a full-time employer, so her tips will help me focus on how I can contribute my expertise to a potential client -- instead of wasting a business meeting by showcasing my ego and/or neuroses.

Thank you for the insights.

Maureen Richardson

Suits Him to a T

Imagine my surprise upon opening my postal box and finding a t-shirt in a can. I wasn't sure that I would receive one, living in Auckland, New Zealand, but there it was -- and what a great shirt! I'm sure everyone working around here will want one!

Goes to show you are reaching far-off places around the globe.

Thanks again, and keep up the great work!

Stuart J. Barnett

Yep, we'll send you a t-shirt no matter where you live -- across the world or down the street. Just write us a letter we'll lust after. If we publish it, you'll soon be seeing a cool t-shirt in your mailbox.

Portrait of the Artist

I enjoyed your profile of artist Tim O'Brien. The pictures featured in the article are wonderful. This young man is a credit to his profession. Your article captures his integrity and character. His work will make him a notable influence in this century. He's the Norman Rockwell of the future -- except his work is much more impressive.

Barbara Marcati

The depiction of Tim O'Brien in your article The Canvas Man was very interesting and gave me the insight that things in the art world don't change much. Even when you're a success, you've still got short deadlines and big ideas. I wish O'Brien much success and fewer bruises. I will continue to keep my eyes open for O'Brien and his work.


Get a Job

I spent this afternoon in the offices of an organization that's showing every symptom of hiring me permanently. It was my fourth meeting there, and I spent time with three more staff members, all of whom flattered me shamelessly and gushed about the good times they have at work everyday. Nevertheless, I left wondering how the hell I was going to get out of this mess.

I've visited the Aquent Web site a few times before and felt the urge to return. I hoped to find the perfect temporary job posting. Instead I clicked my way to the inSANity articles. Ordinarily I would avoid them -- I'm too easily engulfed by envy and resentment toward those who get to say what they want for a living. However, I couldn't resist How to Blow an Interview. The topic was, under the circumstances, keenly topical.

Not only was the article packed with outstanding tips (for starters, I've been much too well-dressed), I laughed out loud at the line, "Who told you that, your mother?" If only I dared! The thought of saying that to my potential employers (with the recommended sneering tone) and imagining their reactions made me laugh even harder.

Thanks for brightening up a bleak afternoon.

Penny Campbell

How to Blow an Interview was exactly the article I needed to read today. My job search has been quite a nightmare, funded by debt and directed by the devil. Satan is my agent! Anyway, you're entirely too much fun and you added a smile to my Sunday Classified Countdown. Cheers!

Miss Tyszko

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Illustration by Lawrence San
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