On “work” vs. “job” vs. “income”.

Andrea Toole
Nov 27, 2018 · 15 min read
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

(Note, this story took 12 days to write. Completing it wasn’t a priority, and it needed editing time, and my thoughts needed to become clear. Clarity sometimes comes with leaving a piece of writing for a few days, and this piece is over 3700 words, a 15-minute read. I offer this disclaimer in part to express that the time frames indicated aren’t accurate. Never mind that.)

The nature of “work” is constantly evolving. I engage in many work-like activities. I have lots of skills and experience. I do not have what some would consider a “real job,” but I keep busy. I’m currently trying to translate all of this into a “regular job.”

Writer/instructor

I recently spent several days writing a free 5-day course to use as a lead magnet on my website. In addition to dumping my expertise onto a blank screen, I considered the following:

  • My goals
  • The language of the audience
  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Length. As it was a basic course on ADHD management, I was determined to restrict each email to about 1 minute of reading time including a lesson and an action item. I put drafts into Medium without publishing anything so that I could use the “reading time” feature.

Over eight emails I had six lessons. One of those lessons was a two-minute read, as was the introduction.

In the end, it took me about five days to complete the writing and editing. I didn’t work on it every day, but it still took at least four sessions.

The following week (remember, I wrote this post over a couple of weeks) I re-recorded the webinar that I’d hosted in June. I recorded it while hosting it, because that’s what one does, and people who watch webinars like to watch later. I wasn’t happy with the original recording and decided that I could do better.

I waited to redo the presentation on an evening when I didn’t need a ton of fans running in my house to keep the house cool (that is, most of the summer) because fans would affect sound quality. During the day? Too much outside noise from construction and cars. I needed silence — or so I told myself.

I re-recorded the webinar, and I wasn’t happy with my voice.

While I’ve been teaching through writing for a long time, public speaking and voice recording are new to me and require more practice than I’d done. Too fast, too slow, weird laughter, fluctuating volume; I didn’t think it was good enough. I didn’t want poor sound quality to distract viewers from great information. At least, that’s that’s what I told myself and my newsletter subscribers. I suppose it’s partly true, or maybe I was bullshitting myself with excuses. I had perfection anxiety, and I procrastinated.

What pushed me to finally get that webinar DONE? I explain that in a section below.

(If I were writing a book, I’d have my editor help me put all these thoughts in a cohesive order. In my days of essay writing in university, I’d write all of my points on index cards and rearranged them, or I’d write an outline and then “state, example, explain,” as I learned in grade 9 “Advanced Enriched” level English.)

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Event Planner

Yesterday (as of writing this part of the story), I spent much of my day planning three events at multiple stages for the restaurant that my longtime boyfriend owns. I sometimes refer to myself as “co-owner”.

For one event, I did some initial planning, nailing down a date and starting to generate ideas.

For another, I received the promotional graphics I needed. With that, I created multiple versions of promotional copy, modifying the copy to fit various promotion locations. First I created the Facebook invitation, then I submitted the information (slightly edited) to three events listings sites.

For the final event, I put out a call for participants, created a spreadsheet and had a bunch of conversations via email and instant messenger.

And yesterday, I had a meeting about that third event, and then went home and created meeting notes in a shared document and an event timeline/calendar on a spreadsheet.

Catering… Assistant?

We have two catering events coming up. I’m always exceptionally organized about those. Otherwise, we forget to bring things. I look at the selected menu on the invoice and write down every single item we need as it corresponds to each item on the list. Every condiment, every utensil, and the quantity of each is written out. If we need five pairs of tongs, I pack at least 8. If there’s brisket on the menu, I must pack a cutting board and one specific knife. Lots of supplies live on our van, but sometimes the van gets emptied because we use it for other things, such as moving our house (one year ago) or moving out of our trailer for the year (last month) or transporting a floor-to-ceiling van-full of pumpkins for Halloween.

Furthermore, in August I added a form to our website that collects information from potential catering clients and provides an immediate price quote based on the information provided (required taxes and gratuity and optional add-ons are extra and easily calculated by those making the inquiry).

Social Media Manager

I do all of the restaurant’s social media. I don’t do the graphics (my partner has a graphic design background and is a certified Adobe Creative Suite expert), but I do all the written content and responses. I monitor social media and reviews and respond to both. In other words, I’m a community manager.

A Lot of Work

All of the activities discussed above take time, energy and expertise. Was/is it for a “job”? No. Do I get paid for any of it? No. It’s business ownership at the moment. Hiring a social media manager, an event coordinator and a catering assistant would likely be two or three roles to fill and therefore be two or three salaries. Sometimes I see postings for jobs that clearly should be multiple roles and with a listed compensation that isn’t commensurate with the amount of work and expertise needed.

My coaching work is, currently in a groundwork phase.

The e-mail course is the new lead magnet for my mailing list. The goal is to get ADHD coaching clients based on my 6-pillar system, the basics of which I teach in that course I wrote.

My situation doesn’t look as nice as the lead photo above. I don’t sit in front of a large monitor at an organized desk. Nor was I working from a coffee shop. I was home, either in my basement on my laptop or in my living room. I prefer working in the living room because there’s more natural light coming in through the window. I always forget to go work in my local coffee shop or my local library

Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

I’m 42. I rent my house. One of the many reasons that I’ve opted out of parenthood is that children require things to survive, and those things cost money. (I know that if I wanted to procreate, I’d make decisions that would ensure that my children would be fed, clothed and well taken care of.)

I love what I do in the wellness world. My coaching business came at a time when I needed my own services. While I’ve done some consultations and coached people, I don’t currently have any clients. Potential clients don’t know about my services. I answer questions online in forums to establish myself as an authority. In one of those places, I have my credentials in my bio along with a note saying that I’m accepting clients. I’ve started making it part of my answer in a subtle, but direct way. Instead, it’s more like, “That’s just a few things you can do to make your situation. If you’d like more information, inquire about my services.”

I love what I do for the restaurant. On paper, my partner owns it. In practice, my blood, sweat and tears are in that place. (Realistically, only a tiny bit of blood. No tears. Mostly sweat, some rants some rage and a lot of physical pain.)

However, I solely get paid for the 2–3 shifts I work as a server each week and the rest is volunteer time. I’m not a great server. I can’t carry more than two plates at a time; I’m clumsy with drink trays and small talk. I consider myself to be the sole member of the “B-team,” mostly working weekend days when there are fewer customers and so fewer tips. I do work hard, though. I feel that as pseudo-owner, I have to lead by example and demonstrate usefulness. I learn from the career wait staff. One told me that she’s watched me improve. I’ve noticed my memory improving, too, remembering orders without writing them down. (I write them down anyway.)

Practice makes progress.

I don’t get paid for the errands I help run, the extra cleaning on Mondays when the restaurant is closed, the social media management (content creation and posting), the event planning, etc. Some days I spend most of my time on activities that result in “bums in seats, faces in meat.” (One of our unofficial slogans.)

And then there’s the fact that I need to pay rent and those other living expenses: The gas bill. My cell phone. Groceries. Life. I replaced my scratched glasses (which I didn’t get fixed until it became enough of a nuisance) and helped pay for the broken car with cash from serving tips. I’ve paid rent with money from my Paypal account and savings and the inheritance from my 98-year-old grandmother’s death last winter. I still want to “pay myself back” for that.

And so, I’m looking for a “day job”. I’ll make it all work.

The way I see it: I get a job, and I do the other work in the evenings and on weekends. I started my coaching business in the evenings, and it was a bright spot that motivated me. “Side hustles” are common.

I am

  • A writer
  • A social media manager
  • An event manager. I also produced theatre in my late teens & early 20s, which I often say is part of event management. I’ve coordinated fundraising events & took courses in fundraising and event management in college.
  • Sometimes a baker and soup maker
  • Organized
  • Qualified to lead a team. I’ve lead teams of volunteers. I’ve hired and supervised interns.

Furthermore

  • I rarely refuse to do a task “because it’s not my job,” but sometimes I do set boundaries if necessary. When I was in my 20s, I would do everything as asked out of concern for my job and not wanting to be “difficult”. Older and wiser, I know that saying “no” is a necessary skill.
  • I have an excellent work ethic that has improved in my year of restaurant ownership. I remember once while sweeping garbage outside I thought, “Don’t we pay people to do that?” immediately followed by, “Oh yeah, that’s me.” I no longer think twice when I sweep the landing or scrub the toilets. Now I believe I’d approach every role as if I have an ownership stake in it because someone does. To be clear, I’m not talking about ego here; I’m talking about approaching someone else’s project with as much care as I’d have for my own. You can trust me with your baby.
  • I believe that if “manager” is in my job title, I should be given authority to make decisions and be allowed to do tasks in a way that gets the best results, even if it’s not the same way I’m told to do it. Otherwise, I’m an “assistant”. That gets frustrating. Not being given the tools, authorization or autonomy to do my job is frustrating. Having to do something the way that I’m told to do it, even if my method provides better results, is disappointing. If you hire me as an expert, I expect to be trusted as one.
  • I give 100% to the place I’m at (the best I can). That means that if I have a day job and a side hustle, the day job is my priority during designated hours. (Be it 9–5 in an office, or some other time range at home)
  • I treat everyone with the same respect regardless of their role in the company. I don’t believe that anyone is too “above” or too “below” me to talk to. We’re all human beings with lives outside of work and loved ones.

If a full-time job is in my future, I’d like one that pays an adequate salary (at least $25/hr or $50k/yr, but those numbers are flexible). I’m also exploring other options.

I have a job. I work. I’ve barely got an income source.


And in with the new…

As I lay in a Restorative Yoga class on a Sunday night, two evenings after hanging out with a couple of friends that I met at my last “day job,” the following came to me with the noted emphasis: “I’m a leader. I’m a warrior. I’m a fucking leader.” I also “heard” the advice to step out of the shadow and into my greatness, to stop hiding myself and step into the light.

Impostor Syndrome is an ongoing challenge in my life.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

(Re)Defining working around in the current world

This section can be best explained by sharing some tweets I posted:

November 19, 7:18 a.m.:

November 19, 7:26 a.m.:

(I lay in bed until the dog came for me.)

That first cater? Nothing was forgotten, and we were so early that we waited around after setting up. Perfect, as it should be.

November 20, 12:05 p.m.

I slept until noon. I felt a bit guilty about it. I even tried to justify it.

What is it with this preoccupation we have with early rising? Why does this notion that people are the most productive in the morning persist?

Yes, I slept until noon and then went to a business meeting at 2:00. The meeting’s purpose was for me to take photos and video to promote an event on social media. I completed a bunch of work throughout the afternoon/evening. I did some website redesign (moving content around) and created an events calendar.

I also made a pumpkin loaf.

So you see, I was productive, even though I woke up at noon. I got a ton of shit done in the remaining hours of the day.

For decades I’ve thought it strange that “lunchtime” is at noon and lasts one hour. With the evolution of the workforce, this has persisted even though

  • Not everyone is hungry at noon. We have different inner feeding schedules
  • Not everyone works 9–5.

One of the reasons that working receptionist jobs wasn’t for me was that they tended to be very scheduled like that.

The person who works from noon-6 can be just as productive as the person who works from 9–5 with a 1-hour lunch break.

Why is waking up at noon “sleeping in”? Because it’s not the norm.

November 20 was an ideal “work day.”

That meeting was at a brewery. We took our dog. I took photos and video. I posted from a couple of Instagram accounts. I drank a beer; I got enough of a buzz to feel unsteady for a little while. It was an enjoyable day that was also productive with the goal of getting bums in seats. (“Love what you do, never work a day in your life.”)

The day prior I’d observed to my partner, neutrally, “You know that some days I put full-time hours into the restaurant? I know you appreciate it, that’s not where I’m going with this, it’s just the way it is.”

A couple of days previous to that musing, I overheard [my partner] tell some friends that he couldn’t do it without me and that without me he wouldn’t have bums in seats. I’ve heard him tell new customers that I deserve the credit for them learning about the restaurant or a particular event online. It’s not just the Facebook and Instagram, it’s the newsletters. We have two lists. I segment. I could A/B test, but for this business, I don’t. I do run all subject lines through online analyzers to help with open rates and after years of newsletter writing, I have an idea of what sort of copy converts.

On November 21 I got that webinar recorded.

The next day I created an email sequence — yes, I write those, and newsletters, and sales funnels — that included calls to action to get people to watch my webinar and contact me about getting on my client roster. In the first email I mentioned the insights I got in that Restorative yoga class.

(+ “Step out of your shadow”, etc.)

I declared that I’m done hiding and playing small. I said the following:

I did it. I had the experience and the practice. Only one person unsubscribed from the list. The only thing I’d have done differently (at this point) is waited a few days before creating and sending the sequence of four emails to webinar registrants, but the timing coincided with Black Friday and went through Cyber Monday, and so it’s possible that recipients deleted my emails without looking at them.

Next steps: Clone the webinar page and give it a new link. Release it to my other newsletter subscribers. Update the email sequence accordingly.

Winding all of this down

I give 100% to what’s in front of me.

However, I need to express all this talent elsewhere, to pay the bills.

As much as I’d love to do all of this for free, it’s not feasible.

I find it difficult to communicate all of my activities on a resume. Yes, I have targeted resumes, but my experience isn’t linear. I tried the functional format many years ago, but a human resources person or a recruiter (I forget which) told me that the chronological arrangement is preferred. I tried a hybrid version: “Communications experience”, “administrative experience” etc. but again, experts recommend not doing that.

And why can’t we use the first person pronoun on a resume?

As a result, my cover pages tend to be long, as I try to articulate all of it as it relates to a particular job.

I don’t know what the solution is to the “overqualified, Jill-of-many-trades” issue, and one of the reasons I’m writing all these thoughts is to work through it. In writing this post, I’ve been working through how to monetize my value. This written piece is part journal entry for myself, part offer to you. (I’ve never been a fan of diary-style blogging. I much prefer to write to educate and offer value.)

While taking a break from writing this long essay I had an idea: I began researching small business grants as one possible solution to the problem of how to get paid for what I already do. (Know of any? Please let me know.) My current options are

  • Keep doing what I do, find grant money to pay myself
  • Get a day job
  • Engage in a combination of the two.

The third one is the likely solution.

I’m creating this story in Medium with the intention of also posting it to LinkedIn, either in its entirety or partial with a link. (Currently a 15-minute read.)

Sometimes I don’t know how to end a story so here’s today’s choice:

Hi, I’m Andrea. I do lots of different things. I work hard. I don’t get paid for most of what I do, but have rent to pay. Work doesn’t always mean income, and income doesn’t always mean work, but I’m good. I’m reliable. I get shit done. I’m dedicated.

Andrea Toole

Written by

Digital Marketing Manager | Freelance Writer | Available for hire. http://andreawrites.ca. I mostly separate my ‘Jew’ from ‘Woo’.

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