Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Mirror: Cinderella

Cinderella is an old story which has been retold and reimagined in various ways, hundreds of times, most notably in movies. Last night we watched the latest adaption of this very well known and much loved fairy tale. I'll have more to say about the film in a moment, but first to satisfy your curiousity, as I needed to satisfy mine, let's go back. From where did the hyper romantic fairy tale of Cinderella originate?

While versions of this classic story date back to 6th century Greece and 9th century China, the English version with which we are familiar has its roots in Charles Perrault's Cendrillon which was published in 1697. Nowadays we use the term 'Cinderella story' to refer to any story in which a nice, deserving person, finally has something good happen to them. It might be marrying a prince or it might be winning a world heavyweight boxing crown such as was achieved by James. J. Braddock in 1935. Braddock's inspirational rags to riches story was depicted in Ron Howard's 2005 film, Cinderella Man. 

The story appeals to us because it is the stuff of dreams. Who doesn't want to find their true love? Who doesn't want to be rich? Who doesn't want to be a champion? For most of us, riches and glory are for other people to have and for us to imagine having. While we may not dream of being a world champion, a rock superstar, a movie star, president, prime minister or king, we all have dreams. There are things we want to achieve, metaphorical mountains we want to climb. Life is characterised by struggle and there is meaning in the struggle, but we want to win. We want to overcome. If we can't do it, or if it seems too far away, we don't give up, and at the very least we can vicariously enjoy the victories of others. When Cinderella marries the prince, she not only finds true love, but is released from poverty and mistreatment. From having nothing but her dreams, she now has everything she ever wanted and more. Her success makes us feel good, but more than that, it gives us hope.

Cinderella 2021 stars Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver as King and Queen leading a cast of relative unknowns in a whimsical musical adaption of the Cinderella story. It featured some nice twists and some terrific songs, like Somebody to Love and Ed Sherrin's Perfect. Although it felt a little awkward at times - a fault of the writing mostly, but also some of the acting - Cinderella had some truly magical moments. Sure, it was corny and predictable, but as far as warm and fuzzy goes, it was a winner in my eyes. It was also genuinely funny in places, and featured in my opinion the best ever Fairy Godmother, played brilliantly by Billy Porter.

Feel good 'Cinderella' stories are important to us because they give us hope and they help us to keep on believing, to keep our dreams alive.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

relationDips: Why I don't argue

My wife insists on washing all fresh food, including pre packed meat before she eats it, or uses it to cook. Even after washing, she is suspicious of skin and will peel it off: even grapes. All traces of soap must be rinsed off the dishes before they are considered clean. Frequent handwashing is normal, and was normal before COVID. Now before you insensitively start labelling her a clean freak, let me tell you there's good reason for all that. She comes from a place where the standards of personal cleanliness are higher because they must be. Unsafe food handling and preparation by businesses from markets to groceries to restaurants put customers at risk. The detergent used to wash dishes isn't safe, dangerous chemicals are used in food production, and you can't drink water from the tap. As I said, she has good reason to be careful.

I've spent most of my life not giving a toss about these things. In Australia, which is one of the most heavily regulated nations in the world, we take it for granted that we can drink water straight from the tap. If the bag of veggies in the supermarket has a label saying 'pre washed and ready to serve', we accept that.

Since marrying my Top End Angel, I take more care. I wash apples before I eat them, I rinse all (most) of the detergent off the dishes, and I wash my hands...often. I don't do these things because I think they are necessary. They are not. However, my wife thinks they are necessary. She wants to keep herself and her loved ones safe. I could argue the point every time she tells me to wash my hands after I already washed my hands or get upset at her for getting upset with me for not washing the chicken breast before I used it to make the tacos she won't eat. I could contest everything, attempt to change her mind, and try to win every argument, but why would I do that?

We've had very few arguments in our short marriage and while that's partly due to our complementary personalities, it's also due to the fact that over the years I've learned something about arguments.

  • Nobody wins arguments.
  • Arguments don't get the expected results.
  • Arguments expose character flaws.
  • Pride is the chief cause of arguments.
  • Arguments don't build strong relationships.

As a result of these lessons, I avoid arguments. Don't get me wrong though. It happens to almost everyone. None of us are perfect and there are times when we either start arguments or needlessly get involved in them, even ones which have nothing to do with us. But, what is the point?

I could argue with my wife about her over the top cleanliness, but I know she's coming from a good place. She loves me and wants to look after me. Why would I resist that? I could argue with my children, but I know they are not interested in truth or in doing what is right or sensible, so I tell them what to do. If they don't do what they're told, they know the consequences. There's no point arguing about it.

Perhaps the most dangerous thing about arguments is they cause division. This is equally true in your home as it is in the COVID world. People are arguing about the vaccinations, the lockdowns, the restrictions, but I don't get involved in those arguments. The government is coming from a good place, not trying to ruin my life or control me, but trying to keep me safe...just like my wife is trying to keep me safe at home. Some of us respond to the government, to our bosses, even to our family and friends like rebellious teenagers do to their parents.

There are and always will be people with whom I disagree, but I am not interested in having arguments with them. I'm not going to expend energy trying to change people's minds. I have friends who fervently believe COVID is a conspiracy, and that the vaccination passport is a sign of the end of the world. I've been double vaccinated, but I have friends who are refusing vaccinations on the grounds that they are potentially harmful and/or part of some sinister government plot against freedom. We can stay friends because I am not interested in having an argument. I disagree with them, but I'm not going to start a fight about it.

Whether it's a global pandemic or a family meal, I don't argue. Of course, many things need to be discussed, some of which are important, some not, but if you aren't sure of the difference between a discussion and an argument, consider the list above. Ask yourself a few questions before, during, and after the conversation. You'll figure it out.

The most important question is this: Do you want to have good, healthy relationships or do you want to be right all the time?

Saturday, September 11, 2021

A Dog's Eye: Freelancer v Upwork Part 2

As I write this, things have been quiet on both platforms. I haven't got a new client on Freelancer for months, nor done any work for existing clients since a disagreement over what I considered to be unreasonable demands. When my client asked me to have another attempt at rewriting a document, I said no and that was our last communication.

I know you have to start somewhere but how long was I prepared to work for the equivalent of around $10 an hour? Many of the clients on Freelancer offer even less money and are running, in my mind, what amounts to writer sweatshops. It becomes increasingly hard to get motivated to work for half a cent a word when you have other clients paying you four times as much.

As I said, my last communication with a client on Freelancer ended badly, but most of the communication with clients on that platform was bad, period. I've lost count of how many times a chat was opened as a result of my job proposal being excepted, only to end with either a sudden and inexplicable refusal to continue the chat, or a request to continue the discussion off site (which is against Freelancer rules). I've never had such problems on Upwork. The instant messaging on Freelancer is like Messenger or Hangout. Upwork is similar. Both provide notifications and allow attachments. The only real problem with either is a human one: the universal problem of poor communication. I could give examples, but this post is about the platforms, not the clients.

Both Freelancer and Upwork take commissions. Upwork takes 20% for your first $500 of earnings which is steep, really steep, but if you're any good, you should be able to quickly move, as I have, into the next bracket which goes up to $10,000. Upwork takes 10%. It's still a lot but I take comfort from the fact that most transactions are in US dollars. so I always get more when it converts to AUD. Once you go over $10,000, Upwork's commission drops to 5% which to me is about right, given Upwork does not do any work. They simply provide a platform for work to take place. They're a business and the have to make money, but 20% or even 10% is gouging in my opinion.

Freelancer is worse. They charge a flat rate of 11% irrespective of the size of the job or how much you've earned from Freelancer clients. For both hourly charge projects and fixed prize projects, it's 11%. And it gets worse. Large fixed price projects are divided into milestones. Freelancer takes a cut of 11% for every payment made to the freelancer. So a project with three milestones will see you paying the 11% three times. Again, I make the point that I'm not begrudging the charging of commissions. Freelancer is a business, and businesses are first and foremost about making money. They all advertise how much they are about helping people, but they are profit making businesses.

Upwork uses a bond system whereby clients have to fund work before freelancers begin work. The system is easy to follow. A client funds a milestone, the freelancer begins work then submits the deliverable at which time the client releases the payment. If the client is not happy with the work and decides to cancel the contract, they request a refund of their bond. It's a good, secure system with which I have had no trouble. Freelancer has no such system nor is there much security. it's more a trust based set up. I've had trouble with this. A client did not pay me after I submitted work. They also stopped communicating with me. This leads me directly to the last thing I want to discuss: dispute resolution.

When I lodged a dispute with Freelancer about the client not paying me. they basically said they couldn't help and they didn't. After much to-ing and fro-ing, they said it was my fault for trusting the client. I've had lots of other dealings with Freelancer support, including reporting bogus jobs, but they are not supportive. This could be a snake oil post. The help desk does respond to complaints but they don't do anything. They say they'll look in to it, but either they don't or they come back with some denial about the problem existing. Apart from the fact there is hardly any genuine work on Freelancer, they overcharge freelancers, and most of the clients run sweatshops for non-native speakers of English, the lack of support from Freelancer support is the main reason I'm leaving. I have no faith in the platform.

I've had one minor issue on Upwork whereby a client broke off contact after paying me but didn't leave a review for me. Upwork said they couldn't do anything. Fair enough. If  a person is uncommunicative, what would I expect Upwork to do? Go and knock on their door?

Overall, with a lower fee structure, a safer payment system, an easier to use website, better quality clients and more work, I feel much more confident and happy using Upwork.

I wonder what Fiverr is like.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

A Dog's Eye: Freelancer v Upwork

Starting a new business is not easy, especially when you're not a business oriented person. For me the 'business' of writing is nowhere near as fun as actual writing. It has its moments of course, but rather than being 'writing' moments, such times are the fruit of writing and/or the fruit of the business of writing.

As a 'nobody' novelist, the business of writing is all about selling books: marketing, to find readers, while as a short story writer, it's all about the search for markets, trying to find publishers. On the other hand, the business of writing for a freelancer is all about getting clients.

Irrespective of the specific target of my writing/business of writing endeavours, the bottom line goal is to meet needs, to satisfy demands.

Which brings me to Upwork and Freelancer. How have these two platforms met my need to find clients? How are they supporting me to build my freelance writing business?

Profile creation 

Not much difference between the two. It's relatively straight forward to create a basic profile on both. However, the Upwork website looks cleaner, more professional, and is easier to navigate than Freelancer.


Freelancer charges a monthly fee for membership at different levels. I'm on a basic membership plan which allows me to bid for 50 jobs per month for $13. For an additional fee, you can take a grammar test which if you pass adds 20% value to your profile. I refused to do that. They also offer to boost your proposals for a fee. There are a number of other allegedly useful services which also requirement payment.

Upwork gives you Connects to use to pay for bids when you sign up. Proposals cost from 2 to 6 Connects. When you run out of Connects, you can purchase more in packages starting from $3 for 10 Connects. If you respond to an invitation or interact with a client, Upwork also gives you free Connects. In other words you get rewarded for being active. It's been two months since I purchased any Connects on Upwork.


Freelancer has two channels for finding jobs, one of which is a drop down of the very latest jobs. Initially I thought this was great. As there is a lot of competition for jobs, it makes sense to bid on the most recently advertised jobs as soon as you can. In practice, it is not as useful as it seemed. When doing a traditional job search, you can't save jobs. You can't attach any documents to your bids and Freelancer also limits how low you can bid which means in many cases you won't get the job because obviously clients will select the lowest bids. The other problem is Freelancer doesn't tell you when you've already bid on a job. It's difficult to keep track of what you're doing, and what you've done, on Freelancer.

Upwork only has a traditional job search, but you can save jobs you like, then go to your saved jobs and work through them one by one, to send a proposal or not. Upwork also limits your bottom bid, but on some jobs you also have an option to bid an hourly rate or a milestone rate. For example, it's $40 an hour or $250 for the job, divided into three milestone payments of $50 + $100 + $100. Upwork notifies you when a job you have bid on is no longer available. It's very easy to keep track of what your doing in terms of job searching and bidding on Upwork.

Next time, I'll talk about the communication functions of the two platforms, payments, dispute resolution, and the quality and volume of the work.