Deep funk

Wow. It’s been a really long time since I’ve posted anything.

Partly, it’s because I’ve been in a deep funk.

For the last 12 years; my primary income has been from book indexing. Weird- I know. I’m technically self-employed although I work for a company that acts as the middle-man. They get the projects from the publisher/author and then pass them off to us indexers. When they hired me, they told me there’d be no raises. No growth. I’d be paid by the page.

Now- at the time this didn’t bother me. I was 25 years old and I was pumped to have a job reading books! Working on my own schedule! From wherever I wanted to be! No offices. No one looking over my shoulder. Just me, the book, and my computer.

I loved the simplicity of it. It was perfect.

For a long time, this was enough. Great, even. A couple years later I had my first baby and I was able to stay home and still work; taking books when I wanted while also being able to decline projects when I needed a break. Since my husband and I were renovating houses on the side, trust me; sometimes I definitely needed a break. We were busy and it was awesome.

A few more years went by and I had my second baby. Life continued. At this point, indexing books had now become tiresome. I was as good at it as I could ever be and that first conversation with my boss about “zero growth” lingered in my memory more and more.

Then my “company” (really, a very sweet couple) decided to hire someone to do their legwork for them. A manager. This brought sweeping changes to individual projects and to my overall flexibility.

By the way, the flexibility is really the only reason I was still indexing at all. I love flexibility. I live for flexibility.

So for the new manager to stack projects rather than let me dictate my own calendar… well, I didn’t love it. And now each index required more of my time.

The new manager may have sensed my angst as I was offered an opportunity to become editor of others’ indexes. I jumped at the opportunity because growth!

But editing others’ indexes didn’t give me much growth. And it left me with a nagging realization.

Editing others work made me realize just how good I am as an indexer. Yet, I’m getting paid the same rate as everybody else. My neat/precise work has the same pay as the sloppy index with 30-plus errors. All the hours I put into making sure my work is the best it can be doesn’t give me any credit with my employer, with the publisher, and hellthe author doesn’t even know I exist. I don’t get paid extra for the time I save everybody in edit phase.

Instead of feeling grateful for my indexing gig, I started to feel demoralized.

But this was part of the deal, right? They warned me. Only things had changed a lot. So… For complex/difficult books, I started increasing my own rate to my manager (my boss didn’t handle this part anymore). After all, I’m technically self-employed.

I’d say, “Hey, this subject matter is very difficult; the index requires hours of extra work through unusual author requests. I need to add 50 cents per page to my rate on this project (this was the standard bump for complex books years prior, but had slowly gone to the wayside). Since you know my work is going to be really great and it’s going to save you hours of author/publisher back-and-forth, it’s a great deal for you. Let me know”.

Maybe my pitch sucked. Maybe not. But it didn’t matter. They’d say, “Okay, we’ll find someone else to do this one”. And then they’d send me a different project. I never got the bump.

I was dumbfounded. I’d been indexing for 9 years at that point. I was getting paid the same rate as when I started but had more work per project, and less flexibility. Accounting for that plus inflation, I was making less than when I started. And half of what I’d make if I was out on my own.

It was time to go.

I loved my original employer/s. I called them and we chatted for a very long time and it was nice. I explained that it was time for me to try something new and they were excited for me and told me I’m welcome back, anytime. It was a fantastic phone call and at the end, I was relieved and looking forward to the next chapter. I didn’t want to strike out indexing on my own because I felt guilty doing so. Instead, I thought I’d find a job related to all the work I’d done on the side renovating homes. Perhaps interior design… Perhaps Zillow! I didn’t know and I didn’t care. I was excited.

Two weeks later, COVID-19 disrupted the world.

I panicked. I called my old employers and sheepishly asked for my indexing job back. Luckily, they were incredibly understanding.

My entire attitude shifted back to one of gratitude. And it lasted for a good couple years.

But again, the feeling began to fade. Nothing has changed. My employers are still fantastic humans. But I have to force myself to remember all the reasons to feel grateful for indexing. It’s become difficult.

It isn’t them. It isn’t the job. It’s me. And the feeling of being stagnant.

Any of you still reading this may be wondering, “why don’t you just find a new job?”. Well, duh, right?

I had a brief stint as a real estate agent. And oh my god, I hated it so much. (that’s a whole other post.) I also managed an Airbnb but that wasn’t what I wanted to be doing either.

I’ve been struggling to find a job; really struggling. The truth is, I’m terrible at marketing my own skills. They’re so weird and too specific. The real estate skills I’ve developed are great but they haven’t given me my primary income. On a resume, I look ridiculous and I suspect being “self-employed” for so long has hurt me. I’m practically non-existent on social media, which doesn’t help either. But still, I think– That’s okay, because I know I’m a very capable person and I can learn anything and someone will surely want to hire me! I’m loyal. And discreet. And reliable. And I care about the quality of my work! Those things matter- right? right!?

But it’s been a year. And I have gotten two interviews and no job.

So, me being me, I think “It’s okay, I’m very entrepreneurial anyway! Perhaps I’m supposed to find my own way. Create my own job.”

Is a personal housing confidante a thing? Can it be? (no, not a real estate agent. this is different.)

But the reality is I’ve been lost. And sad. And still indexing. (I’m almost to 300 books and now I have to hit that goal, regardless. I’m just too close.) I know I sound whiny and instead I should focus on being grateful. But I still feel worthless sometimes- like I have nothing to offer anybody.

I live in a tiny spec of a rural town in the Midwest. 10,000 people small. Moving is not an option. Job opportunities here are bleak. But I’ll figure something out; I must.

So I bought my first long-term investment property. A big ‘ol grande four-square converted into a 5-plex. Property manager, here I come! It may not be a “job”, but it’s something new to keep me pushing forward.

The transaction was basically a FSBO disaster. I learned some really hard lessons; I’ll share them with you as soon as I can. And my vision 😉

Thanks for reading. I’ll try not to wait so long next time,

HouseRat Zero

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