Miriam is also the editor of AustralianJazz.net

The best day ever?

At lunch (at The Moat) it is soup of the day (broccoli and blue cheese, though the blue cheese is very subtle) and a glass of the Moores Hill Pinot Noir from Tasmania. The waitperson is stretched and she isn’t handling it well so now I get to decide. Who will I be? How will I be?

The smile wins and I’m repaid in kindness and excellent service.

I’m waiting for a big invoice to be paid by the client who is never late. This month – my first without a safety net – there’s been a glitch and my invoice missed the regular payment run. So they’ve put it in the run for today. It hasn’t been paid yet, which means something else has possibly gone wrong because they normally pay in the mornings. I’m trying not to worry. Meanwhile, another client who paid my first invoice within days of receiving it has waited to pay this one. It is due tomorrow but I’m not sure they will pay it it because they told me off (nicely of course) for not putting my invoice in on time, and there’s a possibility they’ll try and delay payment to the end of the month. I’m trying not to worry about that one either. After all, that’s what being a business person is all about, yes?  Cashflow woes?

So, yes, freelancing has its lunches and its delayed invoices; its swings and its roundabouts.

As I finish the soup, last night’s dream is fading but I’m still chewing it over nevertheless. A baby in a house; a cat, a small dog. I left the baby in the house with the cat and the dog with some misgivings. I was making the choice to go and have fun with my friends instead and I felt a bit bad about that but I also felt like no harm could really come to the baby. The cat and the dog were good animals but I was acutely aware of the fact that the cat had sharp claws and the dog might easily just be too friendly and scare that little thing. And it was a little thing; a small vulnerable baby, dependent. Of course I looked up dream symbols on the internet and grains of salt notwithstanding this is what one node told me:

  • To dream of an extremely small baby symbolizes your helplessness and your fears of letting others become aware of your vulnerabilities and incompetence. You may be afraid to ask for help and as a result tend to take matters into your own hands.
  • To see a cat in your dream symbolizes an independent spirit, feminine sexuality, creativity, and power.
  • To see a dog in your dream symbolizes intuition, loyalty, generosity, protection, and fidelity. The dream suggests that your strong values and good intentions will enable you to go forward in the world and bring you success.

So, to interpret [and no, I’m not an expert in anything but my own dreams and making up stories to suit myself] this new me (the baby) is feeling vulnerable in the life I have created for myself (the house) and despite my misgivings, I am being guarded by ‘independent spirit, feminine sexuality, creativity, and power’ (the cat)  and ‘intuition, loyalty, generosity, protection, and fidelity’ (the dog), though the cat has claws so I’m worried about some of that feminine cat power backfiring, which is giving me (the omnipotent dreamer) some misgivings.

I can live with that.

I woke early, with the dream so strong I was worried for a while about the baby, before I remembered that on this side of sleep I don’t have one (and am not one). That was how the day started. Then I got on an early tram and picked up my new spectacles at 8:00 am. But the best bit of the day came next, with a morning coffee. At Maio, in Collins Place, where I have been a regular for years – only four years when I think about it but it feels like longer, I’ve had three jobs since I started going there. Or is it four? Regardless, they’ve seen me through them all. They even know my favourite sandwich, and they know not to start my coffee until I order it because I choose my coffee by my mood.

They know my name and use it expertly. ‘Hi Mim!’ A chorus of two, three or four depending who’s there and I greet them back, smiling because in a big city it’s nice to be acknowledged, and remembered. The coffee is as good as it ever is; the smiles are genuine. As I leave, one of the staff – Jem who I also know from when she used to work at Marios – gives me a hug and sends her regards to my brother. We’ve previously agreed that he is a great guy; that his generous ways are accruing him Karma.

As I walk away to my sublet office I think about how important these connections are now. I get up at 5:30 to work on documents for my customers in the quiet of my home office. I am briefed in isolation, I draft alone and often the only contact I have with clients is via review meetings or accounts queries. Suddenly every little relationship in my day means more than it ever has. These people who know my name in the coffee shop are now links to the real world, and they are the difference between feeling connected and feeling alone.

The morning was busy, though I couldn’t settle into the work I had to do. And late in the the afternoon I came home, steamed some veggies and sat down here to do some more work. I have my (real) cat on my lap, a cup of chai to hand and a new blog post about to go live.


Friday afternoon list

A book I’ve been thinking about for a while ended up in my handbag (paid for, not shoplifted!) the day before I finished the ‘last job on a payroll’.  It’s The 4-hour work week by Tim Ferriss. Parts of it shit me. I guess I just don’t like every aspect of his writing voice, but the content is compelling and it’s giving me some great tips – things that really help.  I am moving towards a more sustainable life, that will allow me to breathe, sleep, eat and socialise in a more balanced way. I think he’s got some great ideas.

Like this one. The daily list.

My own twist on lists is that I use index cards, by the way. Once you’ve crossed the items off the list, you shred the card (or file for future satisfaction) and you can move on.

Ferriss (if I remember correctly) encourages list making at the end of every day, no later than about 4:00 pm, which is when he also recommends packing up your desk and moving on. So far this week I’ve done okay at that aspect, but then I go home and work until 9:30, pop into bed and am up again at 5:00 ish to do more work. It’s just end of financial year stuff. Plus the ATO has sent me an ‘Audit or penalty about to happen’ letter, because I was so depressed about my accounts in the 2013 financial year that I couldn’t bear to look at them. Plus I couldn’t afford to hire someone to look at them. So they remained unlooked-at and inevitably my tax lodgement ended up being late; hence the letter.

But I digressed again. Well, it is me we’re talking about. So of course digression was also inevitable.

The list you make at the end of each day is what you look at when you start the next day. It keeps you focussed – now and also tomorrow.

My list today is for tomorrow (Saturday) and it’s made my Friday afternoon just about perfect. Now for tomorrow morning I have a list of tasks to complete. I can jump straight in, and I’m not faced with my normal Saturday fog of anxiety of too much to do during a day when you start it feels like it will accommodate everything – until it ends and you’ve simply run out of time. Let’s see if a Friday list makes a difference to Saturday.

Fingers crossed.

And now I’m off to have dinner and see a play with friends. See, life is starting to make sense again.

The start of something new


Pipers Brook Sparkling 2008 Mmmm…..

On Friday 30 May I had bubbles with breakfast. There are some moments it feels important to mark, with a ritual. Bubbles being something easy to hand (I was at Cumulus Inc.) and the sort of things one reaches for when feeling festive, it was an easy choice. They were Tasmanian bubbles, 2008 Pipers Brook. I’d asked for their driest and friendly waitperson suggested these over the Venetian and the French.

The occasion was simply this: Thursday 29 May was my last day on anybody’s payroll [for the moment, she adds, hedging]. I’m taking a step into a new way of living, where I bill for my productive hours, and wear the unproductive ones; where I think about cashflow and networking and productivity because I have to; where my chance of earning money next month relies more than a little on what I delivered last month. Accountability and self-determination tempered by risk and vulnerability. Cheers!

Since then (an intervening nearly 2 weeks) the Melbourne International Jazz Festival has come and gone, and I’m in week two of my journey as a self-employed freelancer. I hired a writer to cover the festival for me – because I know I have to get better at delegating if I’m going to make a success of this.

To start me off and keep me going in the short term, I have a pile of work. A couple of long term engagements. A growing list of small business clients. A furrowed brow.

But I’m free.

Just now, I returned to my office after a 9:00 am meeting with one of the larger long term clients. A government organisation who likes what I do with the words on their web pages – a kind of ‘fresh eyes’, shuffle-the-important-bits-up-to-the-top, edit the sentences so they feel nice when you read them… and some tangibles associated with good content, like optimising layout for readability, optimising language for keyword searches.  But that kind of boring detail about what I do is not why I started this post.

Mainly, I began this blog post today because I can. I’m taking a break between meeting with one client and completing the next milestone in a deliverable for another. The sun is shining – I enjoyed it while walking back from the supermarket with my bag full of fruit, chai and crispbread. Nobody’s standing over my shoulder watching whether I’m working. I’ll work all day – and into the night, and probably up at 6:00 tomorrow to start it all again. My freedom is not about being free from work. It’s actually about being free to work.

Now that I’m self employed, I’m free to be productive on my terms. I can work as hard as I want to (and I like to work hard) but when my natural rhythms require that I take a break or change jobs for an hour or two to keep myself interested and effective, then that’s no problem.

I have some ideas about what this new direction will look like, but fifty years on the planet tells me that my ideas won’t match what actually happens. The possibilities are generally bigger and more generous than I allow for. Realities can broadside you and send you careening off-course.  One thing I’m sure of is that I’ll navigate through it somehow. Self-help books have a lot to answer for but perhaps one of the things that makes them endlessly marketable is that they speak to something we all want to hear. ‘I can make my own life better.’

So now I’m a writer for hire. I have seven wonderful clients; and I enjoy working with all of them, for different reasons. That feels like a good start.

Business Vic case study series for business startups

ethos-mzblogIt’s been so great to have the opportunity to follow three small businesses through their startup journey.  The series, modelled (somewhat loosely) on the ‘Up’ series of documentaries, tracks three small businesses during their startup year – at three-monthly intervals.

We’ve done the first, second and third instalments for each of them now.

Ethos CafeFacebook marketing generates sales | Reviews strong after hard work – Ethos Cafe after three months  | Opening a cafe

Cheeky Challengers | How to make a business plan | Advice for adjusting your prices  |  How to measure marketing success

maxmyrate.com | How to build a small business | Improve your online user experienceUsing open source content management & cloud hosting

The Physio Co. – Case study with Tristan White

PhysioCo-mzblogTristan White of The Physio Co provides some insights on the process of ‘moving from being a micromanaging small business owner to an empowering team leader’. His thriving business is a testament to his ability to build and empower a team. Read the case study on the Business Vic website www.business.vic.gov.au

I really enjoyed interviewing Tristan for this case study. He’s quite inspiring and pointed me to some great resources for my own budding business!


Article length

I was grumping to myself about reducing word counts on one of the websites I write for – they’re asking me to cut my article sizes to even smaller. I love a writing challenge, and I understand that everybody is time-poor and only wants the pearls of wisdom and none of the sandy ocean floor [warning, metaphor stretch]…  Yes, I was indulging in a moment of quietly whingeing to myself (I’m over it now) but during that brief window of self-pity, my web browsing eyes were calibrated to see information about article length (we all have inbuilt filters that put Google’s clumsy attempts at personalisation to shame)

And I found a link to this article on Slate, with a great graphic showing how far people read on the web.

So I guess I’m writing shorter articles now. Sigh.

You Won’t Finish This Article

New Case Study on Business Vic

Business Victoria wanted a case study produced in time for a webinar. They needed a small business blog, by someone who wasn’t an ‘expert blogger’ – someone who was using a blog as part of their business.

Business Victoria uses tips and case studies as a way of providing real-life examples of how businesses address operational and strategic challenges. They have a particular format that needs to be followed, including some key tips at the top, sub-headings through the article, good keyword density, readability and links to other Business Victoria web content, to ensure relevance.

I was amazed at the interest in my little blog

Melanie Stapleton, business owner of Brunswick florist Cecilia Fox started blogging five years ago, using Blogspot’s free blogging platform. ‘I was a really small business and I had no money for a website, but I wanted to share some stories and images.’ A free blog seemed like the right choice.

‘After the first year, I noticed heaps of people commenting on my posts and following the blog.’ Even though the blog started out as a creative endeavour rather than a way to generate sales, ‘the traffic was amazing – I would have been crazy not to add the website’. Read more on the Business Victoria website www.business.vic.gov.au

New post in Resonate!

Here’s the latest Jazz in Australia post on the Australian Music Centre’s Resonate magazine.

New jazz releases: Spence, Hannaford, Tawadros, Noordhuis, Sirens BB, Trichotomy

It feels like every week a new album hits my desk. It’s a fertile time for recording at the moment, and in this first of our jazz updates that feature recent CD releases, we’ve selected just a handful of what’s on offer in the Australian jazz scene.

Read more…