Phew. Haven’t done an outfit post in a while, mainly because I don’t go out much and if I don’t go out, I go for comfortable and boring over photographable. But on Tuesday I was out of clean comfortable clothes, put on a dress, shaved my legs, realized I was freezing, and changed into a pair of jeans my sister handed down to me because she didn’t like them anymore. Or something. Maybe her ass got too big? Of all the skinny jeans I’ve tried on — which admittedly haven’t been many — these are by far the most skintight, and compared to my sister, I am a stick.
I’m actually really happy with how this all turned out. I was surprisingly comfortable in my skin — I felt good in the outfit and I felt good in the clothes themselves — and I feel like all I’ve learned in the past several months shows in these photos. Some are a little overexposed because I only did the one lighting test with my mom as a model and the sun kept coming and going, but I’m very, very pleased.
If you haven’t already taken a detour from my sidebar to this shop, you are in for a treat. Today I would like to show you some of the ridiculously cool work Melodie Telliez, the jewelry maker behind Slinky Links, creates.
The above are only some of my favorite things from her Etsy shop, where she sells handmade jewelry pieces made from reclaimed leather. From bridal to statement, each piece is unique — and uniquely Slinky Links. I’ve honestly never seen anything quite like it anywhere else, and I am amazed by the way Melodie is able to mold her designs to styles as far ranging from each other as classy from Halloweenesque or country from medieval (like Game of Thrones? You just hit the jackpot), all contributing to a cohesive whole.
When I had the chance to pick something from her shop, though, I went for neither elegant nor bold: I went for cute. She has these adorable cat brooches that I just fell in love with as soon as I saw them. I rarely wear brooches, though, so I asked if she might be able to create a similar design in earring form — and she came up with these:
Are they the cutest thing or what? Even my mom thinks they’re adorable, and my mom is rarely impressed by jewelry.
Melodie was kind enough to send me two pairs of these gorgeous black cat studs, one to keep and one to give away to my readers! If you want your own pair, all you need to do is fill out the entries on the Rafflecopter below, and you may just win it!
So, media kits. Media kits are a convenient, handy file used to showcase the sponsorship options, site stats and services you can offer businesses and bloggers if they choose to collaborate with you. You generally send these out to companies you want to work with, potential sponsors, PR people, fellow bloggers and generally anyone who wants to give you money. Or things. Or just a cool opportunity, whatever, I know we’re not all Parker feel-a-likes here. Or living below the poverty line.
Anyway! We also don’t all have design skills or the cash to shell out for someone else to use their skills, time, knowledge and software/equipment to design stuff for us, so in the interest of being a sweetheart and also surreptitiously promoting my work*, I thought I’d give anyone wanting to get a media kit — or have one made; I can’t pick your interests and sponsorship options for you! — a place to start with a handy infographic (and the text version of it for accessibility purposes and also SEO. I care more about accessibility).
HOW TO MAKE A MEDIA KIT: CONTENT
(include as many or as few as you’re comfortable with)
1. Who are you? What’s your name? How old are you? Where do you live, generally? What’s important to you? What are you passionate about? This can be a line, a paragraph, a list, a word soup, whatever. Just tell the your potential money-giver collaborator a little bit about you and what makes you tick.
2. What do you do? Are you a writer? Photographer? Designer? Coach? Doctor? Activist? Politician? Professional athlete? Stay-at-home mom? What do you enjoy doing? What are you good at? What do you specialize in?
3. What do you blog about? If you have a niche, by all means showcase it. If you don’t — and you don’t have to — let your potential collaborator know what you usually talk about on your blog. Be honest and as brief or not as you’d like. You can mention any series you do, your blogging schedule, anything that’s drawn a lot of readers to your blog, or any time you took an interesting angle to talk about something.
If your blog is particularly conservative or scandalous, or you’ve got very strong feelings about something, this is a good time to mention that, too. That way it won’t come off as too much of a shock if someone asks you if you’ll post content about Valentine’s Day that relies heavily on gender stereotypes and you tell them, “I’m sorry, but that goes against my entire worldview.” Hell, maybe they’ll even notice before they ask.
4. Where do you dwell online? Link your blog, your homepage, your portfolio, your social media presence. You’ve probably done this before for a network or for sidebar, so it shouldn’t be too hard! And if it’s relevant — e.g., if you’re seeking to collaborate with people in person, or your location plays a role in your blog, or you just feel like mentioning it — include where you live (country, city, probably not your snail mail address) and what your travel availability is. If you’ve been on TV or had articles featured on big websites or magazines, you can throw that in, too. And —
IMPORTANT: Include your e-mail address!
5. Who reads you? Yep, that’s the stats part. Some people keep it vaguer than others; some people include reader demographics (age, gender, location). You can toss in any or all of: your monthly pageviews, monthly unique visitors, average daily views, followers on various platforms, followers across all platforms, newsletter subscribers, average like count on Instagram selfies, whatever you think is cool.
6. How do you work with brands? Sponsorship options! What do you offer brands? Do you do sponsored posts, product reviews, giveaways, sidebar ads, social media shoutouts? Say so.
7. How much do you charge for it? “It” is your sponsorship options, and the rest is self-explanatory.
8. Who have you worked with before? Make a list, talk about it, sprinkle their logos across the page. Experience what’s-the-word-s experience.
9. What have you done for them? “Them” being the brands or people you’ve worked with before. If you doubled someone’s sales, say so! If you did a super awesome shoot with a professional photographer (cough), toss in a picture. If you created a whole recipe to showcase somebody’s oven mitt, link it! Give potential collaborators an idea of what you do for the people who work with you.
10. What do they have to say about it? And this is where testimonials come in. Apparently a good closing argument! I wouldn’t know, but I listen to people who do.
PICTURES AND GRAPHICS
(sprinkle freely around your information)
Media kits, just like blogs, usually make liberal use of visuals, plus text is generally easier to swallow when there’s pretty around it, so don’t be shy about including images along with your information — from piecharts to headshots, it’s all cool. Here’s a brief list of things you can include:
Your logo — or failing that, your header
A look at your blog, e.g. a screenshot
Pictures of you and anyone and anything adjacent to you that makes appearances on your blog, be that your pet, your human baby, your apartment, your food, your outfits or your workspace
Examples of your work and behind-the-scenes photos of you doing that work
Logos of past collaborators
to include your blog URL/link, your name, and a valid e-mail address! Otherwise it’ll be hard for people to get in touch with you.
I think you’ve got plenty to go on now, so get working!
* DISCLAIMER/SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: I design media kits. It’s something I decided to offer on a whim and I fell in love with it. It turns out print design is my favorite, and I didn’t even know until January. Figures.
I mention this for two reasons:
1. Everything I know about media kits I learned from designing them.
2. Design work is my main source of income, so by hiring me you’d not only have some extra time to pamper yourself and pester your cat choice of baby, you’d also be contributing to my livelihood and that of my cat.
thoughts running through my mind on this sweet rainy monday
Holy balls, I’m heading to London in a week. Holy fucking shit.
(It’s probably a good thing I have a post scheduled for later this week where I talk about cursing.)
I’m mildly terrified, but when I try to put my finger on what terrifies me exactly, things feel significantly less scary. It’s just that so much hinges on whether I can find a place within my budget quickly, within this tiny window of opportunity from, like, April 26 to April 29 because otherwise the hotel room will eat up half my savings. A third of them. A lot of money, is my point.
I’ll continue to contact people, browse sites, try to set up viewings. The closer I am to London, the likelier it is a room I book a viewing for won’t be taken by the time I get to view it.
Wishes-wise, I did more rambling than goal-setting, so it’s hard to tell what I accomplished. I am 28€ away from having 1,000€ saved up (donate!) — minus the 150€ I transferred to my bank account yesterday so I can buy a suitcase, a train ticket to Madrid, pay the phone bill and have some cash on hand for the metro and anything else that comes up.
I continued to apply to jobs, network, went through my prints and put up a blog sale page, made a G+ page for my business, revamped my FB page a bit, got started on laundry, and just got an ask.fm.
It was holy week. My sister was on vacation. Who even knows anything.
I can help by working on what I’ve got to do, which I’m getting on right after I click publish on this post. I already sent out some emails about my campaign, contacted a couple of accommodation websites, and requested a couch on couchsurfing.
This week should have a post going up every single day, starting with a media kit tutorial tomorrow morning. I’m making it as easy for me as I can, since I will also be:
buying a suitcase and a train ticket
planning my outfits/clothes I’ll be taking with me
doing laundry accordingly (and it’s raining right now, so that’s going to be some work)
continuing to look for flats and set up viewings
continuing to apply to jobs
photographing things (glasses from SpecsPost, earrings for a giveaway, accessories from DoucesLaines on Etsy)
trying not to die
A pretty busy week ahead, all in all. Let’s get on it.
I made a Google+ page for Lix Hewett Creative, i.e. my, er, business. My business! No ‘er’! (It’s hard sometimes.) Creating the cover image was the only thing I managed to focus on for longer than two minutes yesterday, so you should encourage me by liking it. +1-ing it, whatever.
So you know how you should help me go to London (and stay)? The lovely Sally of The Cafe Cat wrote a sweet thoughtful post about it here, which touches more on the helping-me bit than the how-can-I-help-you frame I put on it when I decided to reframe the campaign. I struggle with that a lot — I genuinely believe everyone deserves help, but I also know how easy it is to just check out mentally when you see a campaign that’s written up that way, which is why I revamped it to be more about what I do and showcase my photography.
It’s tricky because, even though it looks like I’m really, really, really far from any of my funding goals, I’m actually over my one-week-in-London goal in terms of how much I have saved up and nearing the one-week-and-let’s-see-if-I-can-stay goal. Every euro on the campaign has been a donation from a friend, and every euro I’ve made beside that has come from my design business.
I’m at a stage mentally where I’m comfortable with the idea of going to London and coming back, where I really appreciate every little bit of money that comes my way even more than usual, and where I’m hoping really hard that I can find a place that doesn’t cost me an eye and where I can stay from as early on as possible as to spend less on the hotel room. I’m looking at flatshares and I’m looking at tiny studios, and I’m looking in Oxford but mostly I’m looking in London right now because it’s where all the jobs are and it’s where my friend is going and where our friend from NY who’s studying in London is. I can persuade Annemari to stay south of the river with me, but I can’t completely dismantle our plans.
I’m also contemplating the idea of going through a lettings agency, though management fees scare me like you wouldn’t believe. (Actually, you would if you know how expensive a deposit on a flat is. Why can’t I just pay rent? I’m not going to break anything, god.)
Professionally, I’m feeling optimistic, and excited about the work I have to do. But I also really want to book some photography work, preferably paid, and I think people should hire me.
It’s hard to do from here, like flat-hunting and job-seeking. I may have to wait until I’m there and cram a lot of anxiety-triggering life-changing work (viewings, interviews, collab shooting) into a couple of days. But I feel increasingly like I can do it, and if you can help me in any way*, or I can help you in any way, I would be impossibly grateful.
* ways you can help me: an abridged list:
- hire me
- buymy stuff (mini blog sale on photography prints! go!)
- share the campaign/my business on social media/your blog
- offer to co-host a portrait or product session giveaway
- hook me up with a job
- recommend a lettings agent
Other People Exist, Too (Shocker, I Know)
I finally went through my bookmarks on Thursday and I came across Are you busy or effective? — a guest post Halley Gray wrote for XO Sarah. I logged everything I did yesterday and it’s a ridiculous, ridiculous list, including gems like “opened Candy Crush” just above “closed Candy Crush,” and “found cat on my bed. How long has he been there?” I was going to schedule four hours of blocks of time with time in between them, but then I got out of bed at 5 PM and subsequently lost an hour reading about Lizzie Borden on Wikipedia, something I truly regretted even as I was doing it, just like every other time I’ve lost an hour to reading about murders (usually serial killers, something I do not have a morbid fascination with, not the way fandom does. I’m a Steve Rogers and Scott McCall and good people are the best characters kind of gal) on Wikipedia. This is a habit, and it’s a really bad one. Anyway, blocks of time. I’m doing that. Soon. Probably not today though.
Stephanie from Twentieth Street set up a photography print shop and through her, I found pixieset.com, a free-accounts-available gallery-sharing site for photographers. I don’t really need it, probably — I have my webhosting with unlimited subdomains and space and I could set up a similar layout on a WordPress site — but it’s so pretty and so cool that it needed to be shared. Yes.
Holly Booth wrote a post about styling product photography that I found pretty interesting and thought some of you might as well. Yes, this is the post where I pimp the work of people who are doing the same kind of work I do. It just happened.
Speaking of which: 12 Must Have Tools For Web Designers. I don’t believe in “musts,” but these do look pretty cool and I’ll be giving some of them a try for sure. I want to start doing more comp work before I code — I think it would help my creativity flow hugely.
I bookmarked Finding Your First Few Clients, and mostly it’s reminding me that I need to create that brochure. And my media kit. For someone who claims she’d be happy to make a living off print design alone, I have been remarkably lazy about designing my own stuff.
So for a while now I’ve been wanting to do a podcast, and I’m probably not going to because… what do I even do that about? On my own? But I’ve also been thinking about doing a semi-regular Q&A post where people can ask me questions about design and photography and writing and I can share tips, write tutorials, give advice (ha, ha, ha, I know) and just help out in general.
I’m sharing this because I want a first question/request. Anyone got one? (If you don’t, I’ll just make one up. But it’s easier for me this way.)
This week I’m participating in a big group ad space giveaway with Courtney Em and a few other lovely bloggers I’ve met through the Her Campus Blogger Network — a network I joined despite not being a college student in the US, because I’m contrary that way, and which has really surprised me by being full of incredibly wonderful, chatty, friendly people that I’m so happy to have met.
These are just a few of those women, and we’re giving away ad space to one winner on all of our blogs for the month of May!
Is it really — holy shit, in two weeks I’m flying to London. CRAP. I still need a suitcase and a shuttle ticket to Madrid. I still don’t know if I’m coming back! My kingdom for some certainty. Or some photography bookings.
Two weeks, you guys. I’m starting to feel the rush panic motivation. …and the panic. Yikes.
I need a suitcase and a shuttle ticket to Madrid. I’m debating what kind of suitcase I want, and by kind I mean price — I liked some nice ones that were 60€ but I think the supermarket a bit further out usually has deals on carryon luggage and I could get a suitcase for 20€, so maybe I’ll do that — it’s not like I’m planning on putting it through a lot. The whole point of getting a carryon is precisely not leaving it in the airline’s hands. TRUST NO ONE. (Seriously, when KLM lost my — red — luggage and returned it two days later, it was covered in dirt.)
I haven’t bought any return stuff so let’s just cross our fingers I either don’t need it or can get a cheap ticket closer to the due date somehow. [After checking RyanAir:] HOLY SHIT, YOU GUYS, THERE ARE RETURN TICKETS FOR 26€ AND 32€ RIGHT NOW. MAYBE I’LL GET ONE. I have to transfer money to my bank account. Or hope the Paypal card I requested gets here quickly. Anyway: HOPE! And panic. Always panic.
I need to plan out my outfits for optimum packing. You’ll get a glimpse into that for sure. I have a lot number of pictures to take, actually, and since I have to leave the house and it is now warm out, I was vaguely contemplating trying out some foundations I have (the BB cream I bought in October and the Korean brand choux base thing I won in a giveaway and the veil cover cream samples I was sent last month) and doing some outfit shoots or something. I’ll have to drag my mom out but I’m sure she can deal. After all, there’s a chance she won’t see me in a while. She will totally miss me. Especially the hollering in the morning for juice and the massive steam that fills up the bathroom every time I shower and having to cook my meals at weird times because my body works weird…
…she’ll probably miss my tablet if I take it with me more than she’ll miss me.
A clutch and another couple of tablet covers. A phone cover as well that actually fits the phone it’s for. I’m afraid some people will have to wait longer because I screwed stuff up and need to reorder fabric. I’m going to make a big collage of tablet cover rectangles and order a couple of yards. I haven’t screwed up the rest of it yet.
And lots of design work and some sponsored posts. And keep looking for work, and flats, and oh, god, I wanted to do a giveaway and have some people co-host it to promote my photography services but it’s so difficult to get it into words and I have a hard time being optimistic about it helping my campaign. If I can just stay in London, if I can find a room Annemari will pay half for and stay for a while and promote my work by doing that work, by collaborating with bloggers and fellow creatives — that would be so much easier.
Then there’s the maybes:
Revamp my sponsorship options
Design a media kit and a photography services kit for myself
Go through my 4×6 prints, make a collage of them and sell them as cards or prints — as grab bags or letting people pick numbers off the collage? Would you guys be interested? I’m thinking sets of 3 for $10 plus postage
Find out how much my tripod weighs. Maybe I can take it with me. Does the additional small hand bag RyanAir allows have a weight maximum? I just asked them through twitter. Bless twitter.
Blog sale? Instagram sale?
So, that. Wish me luck and motivation and things. Hire me or recommend me to people. If you’re going to a blog conference soon, invest in one of my media kits! See, I’m full of ideas.
What are you doing this week? Are there any big events looming in the horizon for you?
1. I renewed my ID, and it only took about half an hour! (Plus another half hour of walking to the police station, give or take ten minutes.) I missed my appointment on Thursday last week and when I went to book another one on Monday, the next available date was last Thursday. I was really worried they’d mail the thing to me and it would take 15-20 days and I wouldn’t have it in time to fly to London on April 28… but I do. Phew! And the pictures I took in my patio were fine, suck it, lady at the photo store around the corner from my street. You keep on being a money-hungry elitist jerk and I’ll keep on printing all of my stuff at the shop that’s five times further away from my house than yours.
(Seriously, that woman is — I have no words for the way she treats people unless they’re looking for, like, a massive wedding photography package. It’s absolutely appalling. I only went there because they have a public machine that prints semi-matte 4x6s on the spot. Suck on my seventy-five cents, lady.)
My old ID was so old it’s actually been to England with me. My old ID was so old I had my pre-trich eyebrows on it. My old ID was so old it was made before they switched to electronic IDs. My old ID was older than my library card. My old ID was so old it had been expired since April 2012.
So it really was about time I got a new one. Ahem.
2. Then on Friday I went to check my balance on Paypal and I got a page warning me that I’d hit the amount of money received where they send out a warning to verify your identity via ID and proof of address before you reach their non-verified account limit. I submitted the necessary documentation and the limits were lifted by the time I woke up this morning, but I’ve been doing some soul-searching because, like, the limit last reset in what, October? Since then, I’ve managed to receive 1,800€ on my account, and I only have 615€ left. (I had 620€, actually, but then I got a Paypal prepaid card with my legal name on it. That one will be mailed to me, so I really hope it gets here by April 27. It says within 10 working days, so it should. It better.)
That means I’ve somehow managed to spend 1,200€ in six months. I don’t know about you, but that freaked me out. What the hell? Then I did some searching and I realized that 200€ had been client-gets-cold-feet refunds, 200€+ had been phone bills, 200€ was direct business expenses (fabric, patterns, printing), a little under 100€ was work-related office-refurbishing (tripod, table, dollar-store baskets — my great aunt bought the 45€ chair), and of course there was the 175€ of the tablet I bought. That’s 975€, 800€ of which was entirely unavoidable. Etsy bills were also unavoidable, unfortunately. The rest of it is made up of clothes (144€), snacks, cat food, human food, and of course the 76€ plane ticket my bank, without warning, charged me 10€ for using my debit card to buy. Thanks, bank!
So anyway, that made me realize two things: one, that if I added up my expenses when I’m listing them on my expense table, I’d probably have been less surprised; and two, that buying clothes adds up, but a splurge on a coat and a splurge on a 174€ tablet that’s been used by multiple people every day since I bought it in six months probably isn’t a sign that I’m on a slippery slope towards complete financial irresponsibility.
I hope. Food and bills are still my number one priority. The third is saving up for the move, deposit, rent. I think I’m fine? On the right track. Let’s keep making money this month, people. Bug me about getting shit done.
3. I do need to buy a train ticket to Madrid and a cabin suitcase though. Not sure whether to go really cheap (20€) or invest in something halfway decent (40-60€). I’m not going to splurge, obviously. It probably depends on what I find. I want something that’s not too bulky to carry along with my laptop/camera bag and that doesn’t take up too much of the 10 kg allowance. I’d ask for recommendations, but given the space those things take up and the timeframe I’m working with, I’m going to have to shop local.
PRs feel free to send me something though. If you’re in Europe and you send it within the coming week, there’s a good 90% chance it’ll get to me in time! And then you’ll see your suitcase everywhere. I’m traveling with my own DSLR and a friend who has her own DSLR, so really, I’m not exaggerating. I’m planning to document the entire packing process, too. You know you want in on that. #prrequest
4. I just came across a post on Facebook asking people to leave a word (only one word) if they read the person’s updates, and then repost so that person could leave a word (only one word) back. “Please don’t leave a word and not repost.”
As annoying as it is that people are constantly gauging whether Facebook is delivering their posts to their “likers” by posting graphics that range from standard to oh god my eyes, at least that makes a modicum of sense. This makes none. And then it makes none internally. And then people don’t owe you engagement, and what’s wrong with likes? Why are people so entitled on the Internet? It’s almost like those people who sometimes pop up (or used to pop up) in the Etsy forums clamoring for forcing people who favorited things to buy those things. Are you out of your goddamn mind, and I ask as someone who is? What the balls were you fed as a child?
5. On the topic of ranting, look out for a post entitled “Corollary to Marketing Advice: You Don’t Have To Get The Name Right (Though You Should) But You Should Definitely Use The Right Name.” Or maybe, “What’s In A Name? A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet, But It Might Well Stab You With A Thorn.” It will come with its very own pinnable vertical infographic, because I think it’s very important to make a distinction between fake name/pseudonym/alias, real name, and legal name, and then draw a lot of circles around real name with an arrow pointing to it that says THIS ONE! YOU USE THIS ONE!
Hi, my name is Lix and I chose it for myself. What’s up.
6. Something I really like about the tablet is that it allows me to sit on my bed before getting on my laptop every morning, cat on my lap and coffee on the sewing table, and instagram a picture of Oxford and me.
7. Oxford on his own showcases spring beautifully:
I’m enamored with these — the open windows and Oxford coming in and out at his leisure, and Oxford laid out along my legs while a storm was raging outside, a lovely, wonderful-smelling April downpour. The Instagram picture is captioned “Reading in bed with my cat on my knees (one of a few of my favorite things),” and it’d be amiss not to say that I completely rewrote My Favorite Things the next morning while I was drying my hair (and stretching, I’m still doing that) to customize it to Oxford and me.
8. I keep coming up with things that I should/could do that aren’t pressing or necessary but that I still should/could do, like a blog sale. Like making a collage of every photograph I have 4×6 prints of and listing it up on Etsy and instructing people to pick 3, choose between “print” and “greeting card,” and basically get rid of the envelopes that my top drawer keeps getting stuck on when I close it. Like taking pictures of the gadget covers I made that are too small for their intended devices, measuring what they will fit, and selling them. Possibly as part of the blog sale. Who really knows.
Like write up a commenting and social media engagement policy.
9. I’m a little tired. I’ve been applying to a lot of things on Elance and Gumtree and Problogger and whatnot. I’m considering pulling my membership from Oh My Handmade, which is something I think about nearly every week. Weekends are odd because you don’t get replies to things, but then you rarely get replies to things either way, do you? Maybe you do. I may be PMSing. Or maybe I’m just hungry.
10. The difference between the campaign I ran last year and the one I’m running now, besides the fact that I really want this one to be funded by in-person photography work, is that back then I was desperate and this time I’m desperate to not spiral, which means I haven’t been working as hard on it as I probably should. Strategizing is hard and I don’t want to book up my time with Annemari either, but I do want to have some bookings ahead of time. I want to run a giveaway and I do want to collaborate with bloggers to promote myself, but there’s no point in collaborating if I can’t stay there, is there?
This has nothing to do with this post. I just like Pepper Potts. She’s my role model.
Being poor makes you poorer. This is not a joke. Someone I follow on Twitter recently shared links to a few articles on the subject — articles explaining why it’s actually pretty damn expensive to be poor in ways that no amount of budgeting can fix and that advice on saving money forgets about. Taking advantage of deals and buying in bulk will save you money — if you can afford to let go of a big chunk of it in one go. Investing in quality is costly, and will get you gross looks from people who think you should buy four cheap things for the price of a good one. Loans and payment plans come at high-interest rates you just can’t afford to take on. Things go bust and pile on and on because you can’t replace them. It goes on and on.
This isn’t even taking into account the hypocrisy behind anti-welfare politics, the social pressure to spend money on socializing itself, the stigma behind admitting you can’t afford something, the assumptions that you’re lazy and don’t want to work if you’re unemployed, the assumptions that you cannot possibly be poor if you are employed, the amount of time and energy it takes out of you to fill out paperwork, the anxiety of insecurity, the prejudice and the shushing and the pretenses.
Frankly, it’s exhausting. If you’re poor and you’re also a minority in some way — neuroatypical in my case; disabled, not white, a woman, trans, genderqueer — it’s even worse. You get told to be thankful for what you have, and you find yourself thinking you’re lucky to have a home, because so many don’t — and then you get told you don’t deserve your lifestyle because you’re not doing enough, and someone who works a job shouldn’t live less comfortably than someone who doesn’t.
You know, because “there are always jobs somewhere.”
My family has been living on less than 500€ a month for over six years. Unemployment benefits are something like 430€ a month, and sometimes family helps us out, but sometimes even family thinks you’re not doing enough to look for a job and provide for yourself and your family. Should you really have a cat? Should you really feed him cat food? Should you really get a laptop? What are you really doing all day online when you could be out there looking for a retail job that no one is advertising? Why aren’t you applying to a job that you’re in no way qualified to do?
All this means, among other things, that when I say I want a steady income, my ideals are lower than you might think. What someone else is used to budgeting for food for themselves for a week is what my mom has to budget for food for four people and a cat for a month. It’s not naiveté that makes me think I can live on less, but experience: I don’t know how to live on more.
Here are five of the reasons:
1. High-interest credits and loans are not even an option if you don’t have an income. Unemployment doesn’t count. Two months of revenue from an online shop don’t count. Financing options from tech giants aren’t available to you. The bank will basically say “no,” and then say “no” another five times for giggles. And you’re not asking for a mortgage; you’re asking for the equivalent of a month’s salary for a menial job.
I mean, maybe I could invest in myself and move out and then make the money back, but I won’t know until I spend money that I don’t have and cannot get anyone to lend me. So I’m stuck.
2. Seriously, buying in bulk saves money. Sometimes shops will have three for the price of two offers on my shampoo, but I only have enough cash for one bottle, so I’m screwed. As someone who sells photography prints and products, I continually have to let go of the idea of bulk printing cards, phone cases or anything larger than 5×7 because getting a discount on 8x10s requires buying ten or more of them and I just can’t spend 20€ on the spot when I need to pay for postage. I’m not even going to get into food deals because you might as well cut me up and throw me to the wolves.
3. Looking for a job costs money you don’t have. Some heavily targeted job-seeking websites (and flat-seeking websites!) charge a fee for membership, so you can’t access the job listings unless you pay. You need decent clothes to go a job interview. You need money to print out your resume. And that’s if you even have a computer, and an Internet connection. That all costs money, too.
4. Stuff piles up and you can’t catch up with it. My sister needs new glasses and she’s still wearing the ones from two prescriptions ago. Now the optician says she should get contacts, which are 75€ per eye for six months at minimum. I, too, was wearing glasses from two prescriptions ago until I found low-cost online sites. Not sure how good these are for my eyes, but at least I can read street signs and the weight of my parcels at the post office.
For a long time, we were behind on bills because we couldn’t just pay two at once and stay ahead of them. Not to mention the bills were due before unemployment came in on the 10th of the month.
The oven stopped working a decade ago. We have since used a) a stovetop oven my mom borrowed from the elderly lady she cares for, b) the microwave, a supermarket deal which has had to be replaced twice, c) an electric oven that my great aunt gifted us and which also stopped working a good two years ago, d) the stove. At least the stove keeps working. On gas butane, which keeps going up and isn’t any less expensive than paying for whatever other thing people use for hot water, and let’s not even talk about the electricity bills, which are fucking ridiculous and hey, you can’t contest unfair bills! Legal fees, what legal fees? And hey, so here’s this 300€ monthly bill I can’t afford to pay, and I could contest it but I have to pay it first because otherwise I’ll have the electricity cut off. I’m not going down this road because it’s an anxiety trigger, and these days we’re “lucky” to pay an average of 112€ a month. From 430€ of unemployment benefits. And then there’s the phone bill, which is roughly 50€ a month, and they try to withdraw the money without telling you when.
5. If there’s no money in your account when a company tries to pay your bill, you get charged extra. My phone company has a 15€ fee for it. I had to pay that fee a few months ago even though for the majority of that month, I’d made sure to keep the bank account stocked with the necessary amount of money for that very bill.
This is just a sampling of the many ways people living under the poverty line are pushed and pushed to stay there, and basically screwed for their foreseeable future, which, as you can imagine, is brilliant for morale and gives me all the energy and motivation in the world to get up in the morning and fight against my situation.
Except that, wait. No, it does not. But at least I have a roof over my head, right? And I bought a laptop I needed to contact my support system and work, so I can’t possibly be that bad off.
* I received this in exchange for a blog post, which will happen as soon as I can get some pictures of me wearing my new pretties! The umbrella necklace is mine also, but it wasn’t given to me for PR purposes — I photographed it.