The Most Handsome Little Man Sarah Musselman May 7th, 2011
Meet Austin, my equal parts adorable and ornery nephew. He’s only been on this Earth for 18 months, but he has sure made it a remarkably better place. Sometimes I look at him and am so overcome with love and gratitude and this wild motherly instinct to protect him from the Bad Things that I just don’t know what to do except hug him a little tighter. I hope this little guy knows just how much he is loved and how much we cannot wait to watch him grow into a handsome young man.
The Underpricing of Work Sarah Musselman April 15th, 2011
Four years ago, I would have delightfully accepted a basic web design project for a mere $50. After all, I had yet to start my journey as a web development and design student at my college of choice and had no real world experience or skills to justify demanding a higher price.
Now that I am just four weeks shy of becoming a college graduate, I have spent an adequate amount of time mulling over possible career choices. Although every web designer and developer would love to be able to just dive right into the world of freelance without worrying about sustaining themselves financially, in reality it is not easy. Depending on where you stand in your personal and professional life, it is a decision that requires careful planning, superb money management skills, and a whole lot of passion and hard work. Personally, this is not the right time in my life to take that plunge, but it never hurts to pick up freelance projects on the side.
Which is what brings me to my next point: how do I know if I am underpricing my services? Sure, four years ago I was comfortable with accepting web development or design work for little or no pay, because I knew that the experience would benefit me in the long-term. Likewise, I knew that it could potentially lead to bigger and better opportunities if I demonstrated my capabilities.
Now that I have an education under my belt and professional experience to boot, I know that the high-quality work I produce is more deserving than $50. I have ventured into freelance websites hoping to nab an exciting project, but have left repeatedly with a bad taste in my mouth.
But nothing leaves a worse taste when I discover other freelance web developers and designers advertising their services for ridiculously low prices. Logos for $20? WordPress themes for $50? This drastic underpricing not only devalues the work of those in the industry who are truly talented in what they do, but it also further fuels this belief that this line of work is easy, that a website “can be done in just a few clicks, right?” As someone who has completed a web development curriculum, it takes years to develop the skills necessary to build a robust and fully functional website complete with front-end design and back-end development. (Four very difficult and long years, by the way.)
I have had several encounters with individuals who have asked me how I can make a living doing what I do when the competition is more affordable, especially in this dour economy. I tell them the same thing every time: you get what you pay for. I truly believe this and I will continue to stand by this, whether I am a web developer or not.
If someone is willing to spend $20 on a logo, most likely it will not align with the brand, vision, or values of his or her business. This not only hurts the marketing efforts of the business, but it also affects other graphic designers who could have had that opportunity to provide their services to deliver a high-quality product.
Likewise, if someone is willing to spend $50 on a WordPress template to start his or her business, most likely there will be limited flexibility and functionality, which can hamper the potential for growth. If the business tailors to a particular demographic, then its website should also suit its visitors the best it knows how. That does not mean using a generic template that is likely used elsewhere on the web; it means establishing a solid Internet presence through an efficient and custom-made design.
I know that I still have a lot to learn and room to grow as a web designer and developer, but I know that I will tread carefully in the world of freelance in order to not sell myself short. Sure, it is perfectly okay to tackle projects that are a little below my expectations, but $50? As someone who is seriously invested in this line of work, it just won’t suffice anymore.
The underpricing of freelance work (including writing, where articles are bid for as low as $5) has gotten out of hand. Frankly, I am getting a bit bored with the entire idea. I say it is time to dispel the rumors that what web developers and designers do requires just a few clicks.
Everybody knows it takes a few keystrokes, too.
It’s April Already? Sarah Musselman April 2nd, 2011
One thing my mother always explained to me as a child was, “the older you get, the faster time flies.”
As a restless and curious ten-year old, I had absolutely no concept of time and just how precious it really is. I shuffled through days like molasses, and often times would sit on my knees and pray to some unidentifiable man in the sky to hurry up the day, because I was just done with it. This was often the case during summer vacation, when my mom graciously kicked us out of the house for three months so she could work in peace. My brother and I would spend the day riding our secondhand bicycles all over the neighborhood and often times to places we were not allowed to explore. If we weren’t scraping our knees from tumbling over gravel when our attempts at “hey look, no hands!” failed, we crashed our bikes on sidewalks and jumped in our pool in the backyard. Every year my parents would buy a cheap plastic pool from Wal-Mart, but it did the job every summer. We’d anxiously peel the hose away from the small puddle of water accumulated at the bottom of the pool like clockwork, because we were sure it just wasn’t filling up fast enough. Really, at times it felt like minutes lasted hours. By mid-June, I would be itching for school to start so I could enjoy cooler days and structured weeks. A few weeks of school, and I’d be wishing for Christmastime, peppermint sticks, and an abundance of snow.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about this recently, because retrospectively, it has been a concurrent theme in my life. I truly feel like I am always waiting for something. As a kid, it was always for school to start or end. As a teenager, it was always for the weekend to begin or my work shift to end. As an adult, it has been a bit more complicated, because it feels like time just escapes me. I don’t wait for anything to end; instead I am begging for time to slow down so I can enjoy it before it’s gone.
And that is why I say, it’s April already? I remember when the new year began and my optimism surged, because I had all these grand plans to complete so I could call it a proactive 365 days. But – just like anyone else in this world – life got in the way. School, work, family, friends, and other responsibilities of a 22 year-old woman called and asked me to invest love, time, and patience into them as I’ve always done. I joyfully accepted as these are my top priorities. However, I promised myself this year that I would invest more time into myself. I don’t need manicures or entire afternoons devoting to bargain shopping, but I do need some quiet Sarah time that allows me to open up and dump the contents of my mind. I need to dedicate more of my time to writing, because that is where my heart has always been.
And that is why I say, shoot! It’s April already? And I have not invested any time into myself? As graduation looms in the near distance, I know that these next six weeks will feel really only feel like three. Thankfully, I have no obligations to the school as of now, so I am just waiting for the day of celebration to come. In the meantime, I am trying to remain calm, optimistic, and excited about what the future has in store, even if it will arrive unexpectedly. I just hope that I am able to make it a routine every day, even if it’s a mere five minutes, to write.
There’s many more thoughts brewing, but I’ll save that for another entry.
Meet Charlie Sarah Musselman March 24th, 2011
Meet my dog-child, Charlie “Chaplin” Musselman. He is a mix between a long- and wire-haired miniature dachshund. On September 10th, 2011, he will finally be two years old (and no longer a puppy). I adopted him when he was eight months old, and now that I think about it, it is crazy to think how long we’ve been together. He is spoiled rotten with belly rubs, naps on my lap, car rides, chicken-flavored bones, and the companionship of three other dachshunds whenever we are visiting my parents in Logansport.
Charlie “Chaplin”, you say? I did not decide on his middle name until earlier this year. He is certainly a prankster and never fails to make me laugh, so I thought the name was fitting. Never have I seen a dog so entertained by his wagging tail or by running laps around my tiny apartment. The funniest (and also worst) thing he did is something I’ll never forget. One morning, he ran straight to the stairs, which is typical of his routine when I let him out of his cage. Usually he will run right back to me, but this time his front legs got a little too close and he tumbled all the way down that stairs.
It was an awful sound and I was sure he was hurt, but he looked up at me from the bottom step, wagging his tail and sticking his tongue out like he had just won a weiner dog race. At that moment in time, it was a frightening experience induced with panic, but now I can look back and laugh about how ridiculous it was. Just like the real Charlie Chaplin, my dog has mastered physical comedy.
(And no, he did not learn his lesson.)