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How Many Jobs Does it Take to be a Freelancer?

Posted by southwrite on July 24, 2014

Hire MeIt’s pretty clear now that the old way of working that our parents knew so well doesn’t work anymore. This won’t come as a surprise to freelancers like me who have forsaken the 9 to 5 for independent employment and our own particular brand of entrepreneurship.

This is the Free Agent Nation of Me, Inc. As many see it, the movement toward independent self-employment is reinventing “work” and the meaning of success.

Freelancers Union founder and executive director Sara Horowitz writes “Many freelancers rightly see the standard workweek as a prison of the past. Managing your own time isn’t just rewarding — it’s practical and efficient. Time is a new currency, and successful freelancers manage, save, and spend it wisely.”

Having greater control over your own time and doing the work you love is what brought many of us to freelancing.

While most people still work for (mostly small) businesses, the number of freelancers has risen dramatically to about 42 million. While many have willingly chosen this life, quite a few are self-employed because their corporate job was downsized or outsourced. (They had to create their own business to be hired.) Of course, many of the people filling the cubes in offices are considered “contractors.” This legal fiction enables a company to employ someone without the expense of benefits or even a W-2.

A great many younger workers – the Millennials and their cousins – have embraced self-employment. Having watched their parents get downsized, they know there’s no more lifetime employment. That evaporated along with pension plans and retirement parties with gold watches.

While the idea of a Freelance Nation sounds very appealing, you have to ask how much of this is being driven by passion and how much is simply desperation?

Yes, freelancers have definitely redefined the traditional job, but that definition is not always as romantic and in control as our advocates would have you believe. Consider this: 87% of freelancers have more than one gig a month, and 35% have more than four gigs. Instead of concentrating on just one job, they’re cobbling together multiple jobs and employment – which could mean a part-time job at Starbucks when they’re not at a table working on an assignment. The number of gigs they work on a regular basis is a reflection of declining rates and the inability to make a living by sticking strictly to their own particular niche.

Is this the future of freelancing? You can download the entire report here and decide for yourself.

I became a full time freelance writer in 2002. At the time, I was working for a small college at the time that was in the process of imploding. A large number of faculty and staff had already been laid off in the chaos of the school losing its accreditation. I hung on as the atmosphere grew more toxic and my envy for those recently departed colleagues grew.

When I finally left it was more with relief than sadness. The next day I got up at the same time, got dressed and ready, but instead of driving to the office I walked a few steps to the spare bedroom that had become my home office and went to work on a stack of assignments. I’ve never had the desire to work for a full time employer since then.

I’m also realistic about the nature of freelancing in the modern global economy. It’s not an exaggeration to say you’re competing not just with the freelancer next door, but those around the country and around the world. If what you’re producing can be done by others more cheaply, then clients will seek them, find them and forget about you.

As freelancers we face the same challenges and the same prospects of having your market “disrupted” by wily competitors as any corporation – but without the advantages and resources. That knowledge doesn’t make me want to return to the office, but it casts a sobering perspective over this career I’ve chosen.

What to do? Maybe those multiple jobs and streams of income really is the future.

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Romancing the Rail

Posted by southwrite on June 28, 2014

Photo courtesy of Norfolk Southern.

Photo courtesy of Norfolk Southern.

(The first of a two part series on the romance of trains and trainwatching.)

I love trains. The sound of a distant whistle makes me stop and stirs an emotion that has been with me since childhood. Men instinctively know what I’m talking about – women not so much.

We probably played with toy trains when we were boys and when we see one passing by today, it brings back memories of what was probably our favorite possession. The lucky ones among us had an electric powered set of engine and cars that traveled on a circular train around the basement. Almost as good was having a friend with one.

In middle and old age, many a man has filled his home with trains and track and station. Instead of a Corvette or antique Thunderbird, they buy multiple Lionel Train sets and became expert in the different models. Their mistress is a model railroad club and their fortune is spent on meet-ups and train conventions.

Trains are mechanical marvels – the empowerment of the industrial age and the driver of commerce. Trains both opened up the West and closed it with the First Transcontinental Railroad connecting the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory.

Trains have always been the embodiment of romance and travel to unknown places. These days few really dream of hopping a freight out of town to a new life of adventure on the road. The attraction is more in the trains themselves.

You just can’t imagine how powerful – and loud! – a locomotive can be until you watch it thundering past so close you can almost reach out and touch it. It inspires an almost primal feeling as the mammoth piece of metal and its stream of clattering freight and tanker cars passes the refurbished depot in the north Georgia city of Dalton.

Dalton Depot 006Today a small crowd of mostly middle aged and older men have gathered in front of the 1914 era depot downtown. A couple hastily ready cameras mounted on tripods while others listen to scanners to monitor conversations between conductors and dispatchers. Within minutes the long train has passed by leaving these viewers smiling and eager for the next one.

They don’t have long to wait. More trains thunder through the city – 50 to 60 daily – than almost any other place in the country. This is one of the few places in Georgia where the CSX and Norfolk Southern Railway cross each other at grade.

If you love watching trains this is perfect place to be. You can see them coming down the long expanse of track. A short distance north the Gordon Street Bridge provides a panoramic view of the city and the trains as they pass through. The depot, which also houses the Dalton Convention and Visitors Bureau, offers a large brightly lit waiting area inside equipped with a 42 inch monitor. An audio system is connected to the radio frequency used by dispatchers to talk to the engines.

The romantic era of rail travel may be long gone, but for a loyal cadre of hobbyists they still invoke a passion that sometimes borders on the fanatical. Railfans, as they’re called, travel across the country to find a good location for viewing their favorite engines. It’s both a passion and pleasure.

Watching the trails go always evokes some romantic notions of climbing aboard a boxcar and heading to new and unimagined places.

“You wonder when you see them where are they going and where they came from,” said one trainwatcher as a long expanse of cars lumbered past. I knew exactly what he meant. It was an emotion that had already welled up inside me from a place far away.

 

Posted in Culture, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Your Office Away From The Home Office

Posted by southwrite on June 22, 2014

Man working cupOne reason I started freelancing years ago was to avoid the daily commute to the office. Leaving the confines of a 9 to 5 job, meant setting my own schedule, finding my own work and clients, but most of all not getting in the car (very often) to drive somewhere in traffic that I hated.

So why then am I so fascinated by the coworking spaces that keep cropping up just about everywhere?

The truth is that after you’ve spent a few years in your home office – whether it’s the basement, a spare bedroom, a closet or even a brightly lit sun porch, you begin to miss the regular office. Not everything to be sure. Not the “boss” by any means. If you’re a freelancer than you’re the boss and you don’t like the idea of taking orders from anyone else.

You do find people  and stimulating conversation lacking. Not that you want to be back in the office with the same crew that sometimes made your life miserable. No, you want to talk to other freelancers and the self employed  about ideas. problems or maybe a collaboration.

Many of us feel that way and some are spending at some a few days in coworking locations. These arrangements usually involve a desk, internet access and lots of free coffee. But there’s usually much more. There are networking events in terms of formal programs and t the informal talks that can sometimes lead to something big.

Just getting out of the house for a while can do wonders for your creativity and peace of mind.

As I mentioned earlier, there are now many coworking arrangements. There’s probably one in your town or soon will be. Most have been set up by private companies, but now even city governments are getting into the act. I came across two good examples of coworking in suburban Gwinnett County right outside of Atlanta.

The small town of Grayson converted an old warehouse into a coworking and incubator space. The emphasis here is on fostering the development of new companies, more than providing an office away from the home office for freelancers. The goal is nurture growing companies that can jumpstart economic development in the town, according to Gail Lane, Manager of the Grayson Downtown Development Authority.

The 438 Grayson Parkway building in downtown offers both coworking space and Incubator programs for new businesses. Along with cheap space, the DDA connects the company with local mentors who can help them develop and hopefully avoid some of the problems that can hamper any new enterprise. She says that other professionals find 438 an “ideal for finding a quiet spot to either get some work done, catch up on e-mails with a cup of coffee, or for meeting with clients, having conferences and networking with other entrepreneurs. We’ve found the concept of “Getting out of the house and into Grayson” a overall positive experience for those who are part of our programs.”

The Suite Spot @ Sugar Hill coworking space

The Suite Spot @ Sugar Hill coworking space

In Sugar Hill, freelancers and startup companies are moving into a coworking space created in the old city hall. This marks one of the first times a city government has converted a city hall into a coworking arrangement. In fact, according to city spokesman Scott Andrews the town may be the very  first.

The structure became available after the construction of a new municipal center. Rather than sell off the not quite historic 1970s era property or turn it into a parking lot, city father saw an opportunity to foster development among the estimated 80 percent of local businesses that are home-based. The Suite Spot @ Sugar Hill was born.

“We see it as a business incubator model,” according to Andrews. “We want to get young growing company or home based businesses in there at a very inexpensive rate. Our goal is to have them grow with the city and move on to the other real estate we will have available very soon.”

Still in the process of build-out, more than half of the ten upstairs office spaces have already been spoke for and a tutoring company called Grasp Learning about half of the bottom floor. The front sector of the columned building is set aside for coworking space and will have a “Starbucks feel,” he explained.

“We’re trying to give it the trendy industrial look with glass and metal. Some place that people want to come and hang out and work,” says Andrews.

That’s just the kind of atmosphere that a freelancer  finds inspiriting and a good place for an occasional office away from the home office.

 

 

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Sometimes The Truth Can Be Hard To Find

Posted by southwrite on June 15, 2014

Press Pass

 

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

– Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

As writers we use words to describe events, convey ideas and – we hope – provide a glimpse of the truth. Words are our stock in trade and the tools that allow us to provide readers with glimpses of other realities.

But how effective are we in describing what we believe to be “reality?” And, what is our responsibility to ensure that we’re really telling the truth in our work? Most of us may not spend a lot of time musing about “truth” because we believe we’re usually doing a good job of being accurate and getting the facts straight. Yet, if we’re doing any kind of journalistic writing (whether for newspapers, magazines or trade journals) we need to be aware that our readers approach our work with more than a little skepticism.

A Gallup Poll finds that just 23 percent of the public trusts newspapers. Of course they’re ahead of Big Business, Labor, HMOs and of course Congress (just 10 percent have confidence in our legislators and you have to wonder if those who did actually understood the question.) Another poll revealed only 29 percent of Americans believe the media generally get the facts straight, while 63% say that news stories are “often inaccurate.”

That dismal showing should concern all of us – not just full time newspaper editors and reporters. The loss of faith obviously has many reasons ranging from partisan perceptions of bias to well published scandals.

As a writer and former newspaper reporter, I’m all too aware of how hard it is to capture an idea or even an event in words. Words become only an approximation of reality, but never reality itself. Writers of all kinds are limited by their own knowledge and access to sources of information. Even when they witness the event itself, they may only see part of what is actually happening.

The part that makes its way into the story may not be the part that critical – and highly biased – readers want to see. Both the political left and right believe the media isn’t telling the truth and is – fairly or unfairly – biased in favor of the “other side.” This partisan vise demonstrates that the middle of the road is sometimes the most dangerous place to be.

In recent times there has arisen a class of political bloggers concerned primarily with advancing their side’s cause. Truth or accuracy is not a big concern. The facts such as they are will work themselves out in the end. Bias is something to be celebrated, not pushed below the surface as mainstream news reporters try to do.

So what should journalists and all writers do? It seems obviously but we should do what we do best – report the facts the best that we possibly can. The partisan will always believe that journalists are lying if they don’t endorse their side’s claims. There’s just not much you can do about it.

What we can do is our job. What could be more important than that?

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The Utter Madness of The Freelance Writer

Posted by southwrite on June 13, 2014

Homeless Jobless

There’re two points at which you question whether this freelancing thing is really a viable option. You ask yourself “am I crazy to be doing this?”

The first one comes just before you take the plunge into full time self-employment. I was working 9-to-5 office gig when I began writing articles for trade magazines and a local newspaper. The number of assignments I was getting grew at a rapid pace. Soon the “spare time” didn’t exist and I had what was literally a second full time job. Still, I hesitated about making the jump —  could I really make a living doing it? If I set out on my own would I be able to pay the bills? Would I lose my home and end up sleeping under a bridge?

You know that moment of cold dread when the absolute worst that your imagination could produce came forth vivid and full blown. I could literally feel the chill wind whipping through my tattered jacket on one of those cold January nights in Atlanta. I huddled around a fire in an alley taking long drags on a cheap cigarette even though I don’t smoke.

The second moment of doubt arrives much later – after you’ve left your seemingly secure job, set up your business and gotten really busy. You wonder “did I make the right choice” as a long time clients vanishes and another doesn’t respond to your emails.

Self-employment is hard despite all the stories about how owning your own business is the only way to get rich. That’s true for some people, but for most freelance working stiffs the goal is just a comfortable life doing what you love.

At least that’s what we tell ourselves. For many the reality is that we don’t want to work for someone else doing what they tell us every single day of the week. We were those kids who came home from school with report cards that said “does not play well with others.” Freelancers are the little girls who were told they were “bossy.” They’re the stoners and the artists that the jocks and cheerleaders couldn’t stand.

We have our own ideas about how things should be and we want to live a life of our making – not someone else’s..

Moments of doubt also come when you realize what a disadvantage you (and all small businesses) are at in the modern economy. It begins with paying both sides of the social security tax and progresses through indignities such as little or no health insurance and bankers who snicker when you ask for a loan.

No matter how often Obama or some Republican congressman solemnly declares that small business is the heart and soul of the economy, we know that we have little influence on national policy. We don’t make big donations to candidates – in fact most probably never make political contributions at all – so why should they pay attention? While we might join an association like The Freelancers Union, (which bills itself as a “federation of the unaffiliated”), we know it’s not really a union and we’re still really on our own.

Given all that, I know few people who would give up the freelance life. Whether it’s the ability to meet the school bus every afternoon or wear fuzzy slippers to a home office, there’s an odd almost masochistic appeal to self-employment. We struggle, but find joy in a corner table at Starbuck’s with a steaming latté next to a laptop. We even allow our pride to rise as we think of ourselves as valiant and independent entrepreneurs. In guiet moments we think of ourselves as the direct descendants of the cobblers and shopkeepers who built America.

And, if anyone asks me if they should try freelancing what do I tell them? Why of course you should! Get out of that soulless office and become a real business person. There’s nothing better to do with your life.

So we’re back to the question: are we crazy to freelance? What do you think? Have you thought of giving it up? What makes you stick with it?

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Reading to be a Better Writer

Posted by southwrite on June 5, 2014

Tree reading book

Like a lot of other freelancers, I get the question “how do you become a writer?” Since it usually comes from people who aren’t really serious about making writing their calling, I say “well, you write. Then you’re a writer.” And, of course, that’s true. You have to do it in order to be it. You more you write you better you become at it and the better writer you become.

I do a lot of writing –journalism and corporate copywriting – so I practice what I preach. [This blog is an addition – a test to see if I could keep up with daily posting without quitting.] Yet, there’s one thing I don’t do as much as I should and that’s reading.

Sure I read a lot. I read all the time in many different mediums, but mostly on computer and on line. Most of it is research with a little non-worked related material thrown in. I’m also trying to do more reading that improves my craft. The kind that makes me a better writer.

I’m reading more books on writing. Here good examples abound. One of my favorites is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Part autobiography and practical guide for aspiring writers, it’s filled with advice from a master of the craft. Whether you’re a fiction writer or not this is one book you should certainly read.

You should also check out guides aimed at specific aspects of freelancing. The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli. Another good book for both beginners and even veterans is The Well-Fed Writer – Updated Edition by Peter Bowerman. This book covers just about everything you can think of that you might need to know as a freelancer, but perhaps it’s greatest lesson is that Bowerman knows you have to approach writing as a business.

You can find a number of other good works on various aspects of freelance writing here.

There are general interest magazines devoted to writing – Writer’s Digest and The Writer. Either or both are worth subscribing to for the one or two articles in each issue that make subscribing worthwhile.

Along with the how-to books and articles, some of the best lessons you can get from reading come from other writers who are doing what you want to do. Read the work of writers you respect with an eye to how they structure their stories, set up scenes and present information. Break a story down and think about how the writer approached it. This is particularly helpful when you’re reading stories similar to ones that you yourself write.

You might think you don’t have time for this kind of reading, particularly if you’re busy doing a lot of your own. This is the time you most need to sharpen your skills and your mind with good information and most of all good writing.

Posted in Professional Development, Uncategorized, Working, Writing | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Take Your Work and Get Out – of the Home Office

Posted by southwrite on May 30, 2014

Station Works

If you’re like most freelancers you’re probably working at home right now. Maybe it’s a nice sundrenched office with a desk, lots of plants and a dog resting nearby. For some, it’s a closet because you need the rest of the room for living. Whatever your office looks like and no matter how much space you have there comes a time when you need to get out.

You want a change of location. You need to see people – the dog isn’t enough anymore.

For most of us that could be a trip to Starbucks to camp out for a while with an iced coffee. But what if a temporary outing isn’t enough anymore. You’d like to have more “water cooler” time with other people to stir the creative juices. If you’re feeling confined, maybe it’s time to look for other digs. Maybe it’s time to get a real office away from home office.

You have a lot of options. There are traditional temp office buildings that can be found just about everywhere. Some companies are also sub-leasing desks in the cube farm or even office to outsiders as a way of cutting expenses and creating new streams of revenue when it’s not feasible to downsize. You can find many of them on CraigsList.

Then there’s Vancouver-based ShareDesk which provides individuals and small teams access to a network of shared workplaces on flexible hourly, daily, monthly, or extended terms. The company calls itself the “AirBnB of office space.”

Popular these days are coworking spaces. Usually found in urban areas in converted industrial buildings, they feature big open spaces where you can rent a desk or an office either long term or on a daily basis.  A good example among many is Atlanta’s StrongBox West. Tucked away on a quiet street in West Atlanta, this former warehouse has the cool industrial look favored by creative techies. Inside bare brick walls surround a large open space filled with tables and desks. Inside you can find desks in open spaces with some separated from others by large curtains hanging from the high ceiling.

It’s the kind of space where creative people can meet, exchange ideas and even form a partnership.

According to DeskMag.com there are more than 110,000 people laboring away in one of the nearly 2,500 coworking spaces like this one around the globe. The website for coworking says that “compared to last year, there are now 83% more coworking spaces that serve a total of 117% more members! Considering only workdays, we see 4.5 new coworking spaces have emerged daily for the past twelve months. During the same time, the number of coworking members increased by 245 people on average each work day.”

If you choose coworking, you’ll have lots of company.

And, while coworking can be good for freelancers – writers, graphic designers and PR practitioners – they are also attractive to small startup companies of all stripes.

There are of course many others around the city and they’re even moving out into the suburbs.

Outside Atlanta in the small town of Douglasville, Station Loft Works recently opened up as proably teho only coworking space on the side of the city. Developer Barry Oliver purchased a former 1940s era brick building downtown that had once been home to a car dealership.

“We first looked at it for loft apartments, but Douglasville wasn’t zoned for apartments,” recalls Oliver. “So we started thinking about other things that were needed here.”

He hit upon the idea of a coworking office suite arrangement for the growing population of entrepreneurs and freelancers who were moving out to Douglas County. He reasoned that many of them work from home, but could benefit from flexible office space for meetings or collaborations.

The cavernous building has space for about 60 permanent tenants in various configurations from full time office space to temporary desks, along with a variety of “virtual” tenants who only need a desk and office a few days a month. Up front is a coffee shop offering free beverages and pastries to tenants and encouraging the sort of collaboration that co-working spaces are designed to create.

“We see our clientele being someone who works in teams or with groups and so they would have the need to be able to scale back and forth as far as space requirements,” says Oliver. “By using the co-working space they can collaborate and jump start projects.”

Maybe coworking is just the move you need to jumpstart you project as well.

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They Want You to Unsee What You Just Saw

Posted by southwrite on May 28, 2014

Man with Mask

 

The Washington Post’s Bob Windward once said, “Democracies die in darkness.” These days it seems that a lot of people – from government to business – are doing their best to turn out the lights.

Take for example the Georgia Attorney General’s recent efforts to force a student journalist to remove documents from his blog that had been released to him by the Georgia Board of Regents. Even though they had been obtained in an Open Records request and were now public, the AG’s office wanted everyone to “unsee” them. The move generated quite a bit of controversy and no doubt provided a bigger audience for the documents than would have otherwise existed.

Fortunately the court motion was withdrawn “presumably because it was absurd, had no basis in law, and might as well have been written in crayon, given the quality and seriousness of the state’s arguments.”

The case got started when student newspaper editor David Schick requested documents related to Georgia Perimeter College budget crisis under the Georgia Open Records Act. The Board of Regents at first resisted and then asked for $3,000 to produce the documents. Eventually the board released them including 713 pages of emails and other documents on the finances and presidential searches at the state’s public colleges and universities. To make Schick’s job harder, state employees printed and scanned the documents as JPEGs — making them impossible to search easily. Schick decided to crowdsource the work by posted all of them to his blog.

Among the documents were a small number of pages that identified applicants for college president positions who were not finalists. The Regents could have withheld those pages, and that became the basis for the AG’s attempted takedown order. In other words, we want to make what is already public disappear.

Georgia AG Sam Olens, who has long had a reputation as a proponent of Open Records access, killed the court motion after he heard about it, according to a spokesman. (Based on my experience interviewing him for various stories over the years, I tend to buy that explanation.) Yet, one or more attorneys in his office apparently thought this was a really great idea. That’s disturbing.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that government officials have engaged in this kind of fantasy. After the great WikiLeaks document release, the Pentagon ordered all personnel not to see what was then appearing in every newspaper and media outlet around the world. That may have been one of the most ridiculous efforts ever, but it tells you a lot about how the bureaucratic mind works.

Officials keep trying to get away with it. Once information becomes public you can’t stuff it back in a box and say “move along, you didn’t see anything here.” That’s the kind of actions authoritarian governments take to keep their citizens under control. It has no place here and this time it doesn’t.

We can be thankful to David Schick that it didn’t win this time. Next time? Who knows.

 

 

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Laziness and the Freelance Writer

Posted by southwrite on May 19, 2014

LAZY WORKER

People today are lazy and they don’t wanna’ work. I hear that phrase a lot in one form or another. I saw that recently in a series of comments on Facebook. One went like this: …People just don’t have work ethic anymore. I’ve seen it in every single job I’ve been in and almost every business I walk in. People come in late, leave early, do the bare minimum not to get fired. They don’t give a damn about anything…

Whenever I hear this I tend to stop listening. These broad condemnations of everybody (expect me and my elite friends) aren’t based on facts or the most half assed of flimsy research. Instead it’s at best anecdote and hearsay colored by ideological bias and a deep seated psychological desire to feel superior. If these conversations go for long, undercurrents of classism and racism begin to emerge. This poster was not talking about superior “white collar” people, but everyone else – the hoi polloi. The lower classes just don’t have the same work ethic as their betters and we all surfer for it.

Nobody really challenged this idea. In fact, it began to seem that the participants – most freelance writers like me – agreed. Maybe they just didn’t want to say so. They know that they work long hours meeting regular deadlines. In fact, a lot of people do agree with it – even those who are put in the lazy class.

This idea is important because it shapes our politics and our public policy. It’s used as a justification for increasing income inequity. Remember Mit Romney’s infamous 47 percent? During the 2012 presidential campaign he told a crowd of wealthy donors:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims. … These are people who pay no income tax. … and so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

The fact that this group included a great many senior citizens, veterans and others who puzzlingly inclined to vote Republican seemed lost on most people especially pundits. While the 47 percent have incomes too low for federal income tax, they do pay federal payroll taxes that support Medicare and Social Security and many also paid federal excise taxes, along with state and local sales, property and income taxes. In fact, Romney’s 14.1 percent rate was actually lower than that paid by many in this group. The poorest fifth of Americans paid an effective tax rate of 17 percent.

Reality is more complicated than our ideological or personal ideas. It’s hard to imagine how the country, much less business, goes on with so many people unwilling to work. It even harder when you consider the amazing increases in productivity that American workers have turned in over the decades – despite not reaping any of the rewards. It also doesn’t explain the large number of lower income people who hold multiple jobs to make ends meet. I know some of them myself and they don’t have time to be lazy as they’re running between jobs, finding daycare for children and handling the daily grind of survival without support.

The factors that determine whether someone is rich or poor go far beyond hard work. Being self-employed and hanging out with other freelancers I know we all tend to be consumed by work. None of us are lazy, we all work hard, but we also know that success is not determined by how hard we work.

As a freelance writer I’ve learned that survival, not to mention success, depends on many different things. Some I can control. Some I can’t. And, that’s true for most of us – whether rich or poor.

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Health IT Firms Finding a Home in Atlanta’s Central Perimeter

Posted by southwrite on May 16, 2014

Image

 

 

Randy Southerland

Atlanta Business Chronicle 

Atlanta likes to bill itself as the health information technology capital of the nation and lately a growing number of those high-tech companies are finding their way to Dunwoody.

More than 250 of these companies employing an estimated 30,000 workers can be found throughout the city. Increasingly they are coming here for many of the same reasons that attracted other businesses, including most of the city’s Fortune 500 corporate headquarters.

“The factors for us were cost, easy access to our trading partners and customers as well as amenities such as [Perimeter] Mall and the restaurants and such a great business environment to entertain,” said David Karabinos, CEO of PointClear Solutions. “All of those things, including the central geography, were very appealing to all of the folks on our team.”

The Perimeter area’s 33 million square feet of office space offers a variety of real estate options. Unlike Midtown or Buckhead, many of them come with free parking.

PointClear designs and develops customized and intuitive health-care technologies for hospitals, health systems and physician practices by partnering with health IT vendors investing in innovation.

The company moved its corporate headquarters from Alabama to Dunwoody a year ago to be closer to customers, potential partners and a highly educated workforce.

Atlanta offered a depth of talent difficult to find anywhere else. With so many companies already here, trained workers are readily available. In addition, the area boasts a wide variety of educational institutions from a nationally recognized engineering university to several vocational and technical colleges offering computer-related majors.

“ Georgia Tech has a very reputable master’s program in computer interaction, which is the foundational discipline for user experience design in technology,” Karabinos said. “It has the talent that we need to continue to grow. We’re a service company and we expand by the sheer number of really talented people that we hire.”

The city’s location on the northern perimeter put the company close to where much of its workforce wanted to live.

“Dunwoody is geographically appealing to our team, our people,” he said. “We’ve got people in Johns Creek, in Alpharetta and other places around the city. It’s just a good central spot for us.”

Many of its health-care clients can also be found in these same areas.

PaySpan Inc. recently relocated to Dunwoody from Jacksonville, Fla., where it still maintains a call center. The company is the nation’s largest health-care reimbursement network representing approximately 700,000 providers and just over 800 health plans.

“We’re at that convergence point of health-care technology and payment services and financial services,” said PaySpan CEO Kevin Arner. “For us this is a great location in terms of the access to talent and access to peers and colleagues that are really doing some innovative new things in the payment and health-care industry.”

The area held a double attraction for the company. In addition to the large number of health IT firms around, Atlanta is also a hub for the financial services and payment industry. Powered by a heavy concentration of data centers and fiber access, a large portion of the country’s transitions pass through the city in one way or another.

Atlanta is increasingly becoming known as “transaction alley,” according to Arner.

For the company and its workers, the Dunwoody area offers a degree of transportation access unrivaled by other suburban locations. With four MARTA stations serving Perimeter, PaySpan and other companies have been able to draw on a crop of young, creative millennials, who tend to favor urban, highly walkable areas such as Buckhead and Midtown.

Perimeter Commercial Space

  • 33 million  square feet
  • $3.36 billion  in estimated value
  • 5,000  companies

 

Originally published in the Apr 18, 2014 edition of The Atlanta Business Chronicle: http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/print-edition/2014/04/18/health-it-firms-calling-dunwoody-home.html?s=print

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