toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

September 06, 2012

freelance graphic designer happier at home

Whitney is a single mother and a freelance graphic designer who turned her home computer into a lucrative money-spinner during the good times - allowing her to enjoy the benefits of self-employment as well as the comforts of working from home - and now that times are not so good she is still happier at home than stuck in a woeful workplace.

"There was an amazing growth in self-employment opportunities when the Internet first took off," says Whitney, "but then came the dotcom bust and a lot of disappointment and misery followed in its wake for those who looked to the Internet as a source of income."

As a self-employed graphic designer, Whitney still gains quite a bit of work through the Internet, but admits that her income has dropped dramatically since she first set up.

"It's a good thing I saved most of my money when the going was good," she laughs, "because I'm living off it now."

"Designing graphics gets me work with a wide variety of commercial sites," says Whitney, "and I've noticed that the Internet businesses based on something that's highly marketable off the Internet are doing a lot better than those that rely on a niche product."

"Hundreds of thousands of Internet businesses went to the wall after the bust," says Whitney, "but those that peddled highly marketable commodities like pornography, gambling and anything related to dieting, children, music and popular personalities - commodities that are #1 on or off the Internet - shot up in sales while the rest of the business world was slithering down the gurgler."

"Surveys differ on demographics, so it's not always useful to assess Internet marketability by Internet demographics," says Whitney.

"Some surveys say that stay-at-home moms comprise the greatest number of Internet users, others say it is working men aged 20-26."

"Isn't that strange?" laughs Whitney. "I always thought that 13-year-old boys ruled the Internet!"

Frankly, she doesn't feel that the greatest number of Internet users has much to do with what is actually bought on the Internet, and besides which people often lie - with very good reason - about their sex and age when filling in online forms.

"Interestingly," says Whitney, "one survey I read maintained that marketers could tell the sex of the buyer by the way they 'clicked'. Apparently, women 'click' twice. It made me laugh because I automatically thought of postmen!"

"Anyway, if we were to pay heed to Internet demographics," says Whitney. "then selling something that has appeal to women or working men aged 20-26 would be the way to go."

"Gambling, loan sharking and get-rich-quick schemes - even get-rich-slowly schemes - are highly marketable on and off the Internet," says Whitney.

"They operate on the basis that a sucker is born every day, if not every minute, maybe every second. I don't feel too happy doing work for this type of operation, but money is money and since most of it is made from the misery of others I try not to judge myself too harshly."

"It's pretty tacky to want to make a living out of ripping people off and profiting in human misery, isn't it?"

"It's just as tacky to assist the merchants of misery by using their ads to fund whatever Internet business you want to run."

"I just do graphics," laughs Whitney. "And don't ask questions!"

"Things are picking up with all the venture capitalists coming back," says Whitney, "but it's taken them a long time to get over all the money they lost with the Internet start-ups that promised so much, took so much and delivered zilch."

"I had a contract with one of these dubious start-up operations," says Whitney. "It was run by lawyers and accountants who had neither technical knowledge nor Internet savvy. They employed freelancers like me to design the company's logo, code the webpage and write their marketing blurbs."

"The business never got off the ground. The lawyers and accountants siphoned off the venture capital for personal enrichment and the venture capital guys lost everything. My freelance colleagues and I were very lucky to get paid."

"When the Internet was booming in the late 1990s," explains Whitney, "thousands of freelancers like me made a lucrative living from anything related to internet businesses - designing graphics, coding web-pages or writing blurbs and content."

"I'd like to believe that those halcyon days will return," sighs Whitney. "It's great knowing that Google and other new start-ups made it through the bust, but it's been a downhill slide for me and thousands of freelancers like me."

"I'm not doing so badly that I need to find a regular job at some woeful workplace," laughs Whitney, "but I expected to be doing a whole lot better than I'm doing now."

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