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Opinion Editorials

It’s Me, myself, and I; not work, job, and side hustle

(EDITORIAL) Who else is tired of the Hustle? Why is it there anyway? How can I stay out of it? These question are important when thinking of your next opportunity.

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Live your life in a constant state of fear and exhaustion because you’ll either be doing so in an apartment, or under a bridge.

Sounds…bleak, no? Well, it’s still the best business advice I’ve ever gotten.

Okay, fine, I didn’t hear this pearl of wisdom in those exact words.

What my father actually said was ‘Make sure you have a side hustle or two, because it’ll broaden your experiences, and because you never know.’

The reality of seeing that through just so happens to mean what I got into in the opening.

Texas is an at-will state. Just as you don’t need a reason, or notice to quit, neither do employers need to give you reason or notice to fire you. Want a personal example? Here’s mine:

Just as I’d settled into starting day 4 of a house cleaning gig, corporate, so to speak, called me in to fire me. I wondered if I’d accidentally offended someone, missed a light fixture, or blacked out, unhinged my jaw and swallowed a client’s cat, so I asked what it was I could have done so badly in only three shifts.

As it happened, they just “didn’t think I was a good fit”, and “could tell how it was going to turn out”, which could have meant anything from ‘You vacuumed too loudly and someone complained’ to ‘The chicken entrails we cast told us you were going to start a fire somewhere and we wanted to nip it in the bud’.

What would have happened to me if I didn’t have contract work on my side to keep my lights on while I got back to the search for 40 hours? It starts with an E, and ends with a viction.

Or, to be realistic, it’d start with asking my folks to move back in, selling all my stuff, and desperately searching for someone to take over my lease so I wouldn’t take a huge credit score hit.

But not everyone has that kind of fallback. And even though I fully expect my mother to outlive me, everyone reading this, and also the sun, I won’t always have it either.

My point is: you never really get to rest. You have to constantly chase clients as a freelancer in case someone changes their minds, gets acquired by another company, dies, etc. You have to keep your resume updated and your job searches fresh in a 9-5 in case they lowball you on a raise, let your manager grope you without consequence, or decide that new employment laws threaten their yacht-panthers’ manicure schedule and show your entire division the door.

I don’t subscribe to the ‘Hustle Culture’ that paints this as a good thing either. It’s not. It’s maddening to keep up with, and that’s very much by design. Scared, tired people need more convenience, need to buy more stuff, need to work harder to afford that stuff, and it’s a hard cycle to break out of and STAY out of. Remember, nobody writes books about the businesses that fail.

But with this fear comes a certain kind of clarity. If nothing is promised to ME, I don’t have to promise anything either!

I don’t HAVE to work late into the night to prove my loyalty. I don’t need to see other, better offers as a threat to a meaningful relationship. I don’t have to put my education on hold until I reach ‘a good time’ to ask for a different schedule around acquiring a valuable new skill.

If, for all you know, your boss is having you train your replacement any time someone’s “brought on board”; then, for all they know, your in-person-interview elsewhere really IS a dental checkup!

At first I felt super slimy about thinking this way. Whatever happened to perseverance? Integrity? Honesty? Teamwork?

And then I realized the people at the top sleep like rich toddlers after making decisions for the betterment of the company that might happen to screw over an individual, and I embraced my inner hagfish.

If your net worth is a rousing round of canned laughter like mine, you have very little choice but to weave and maintain your own safety nets. That’s what Dad wanted me to understand—not to put all my eggs in one basket. He didn’t want me to be afraid, per se, just aware. I added the fear myself because…well pick any news story.

It’s tiring, it’s difficult, it’s morally light gray sometimes, and I shudder to think how I would handle this if I had kids.

But considering how many times an extra check, or a good gig reference has saved my bacon, job monogamy is out…even if playing the field does mean I need extra naps.

You can't spell "Together" without TGOT: That Goth Over There. Staff Writer, April Bingham, is that goth; and she's all about building bridges— both metaphorically between artistry and entrepreneurship, and literally with tools she probably shouldn't be allowed to learn how to use.

Opinion Editorials

The truth about unemployment from someone who’s been through it

(EDITORIAL) Unemployment benefits aren’t what you thought they were. Here’s a first-hand experience and what you need to know.

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Have I ever told you how I owed the government over two grand because of unemployment in 2019, and only just finished paying it back this year?

This isn’t exactly the forum for memoirs, but this is relevant to everyone. So I’ll tell y’all anyway.

It all started back in 2018 when I came into work early, microwaved my breakfast, poured coffee, and got pulled into a collaboration room to hear, “We love you and your work, April, but we’ve been bought out and you’re being laid off.”

It was kind of awkward carrying my stuff out to the car with that Jimmy Dean sandwich in my mouth.

More awkward still was the nine months of unemployment I went through afterwards. Between the fully clothed shower crying, the stream of job denial, catering to people who carried rocks in their nostrils at my part-time job (yes, ew, yes, really), and almost dying of no-health-insurance-itis, I learned a lot!

The bigger lesson though, came in the spring of the following year when I filed my taxes. I should back up for a moment and take the time to let those of you unfamiliar with unemployment in Texas in on a few things that aren’t common knowledge.

1: You’re only eligible if you were laid off. Not if you had quit. Not fired. Your former company can also choose to challenge your eligibility for benefits if they didn’t like your face on the way out. So the only way you’re 100% guaranteed to get paid in (what the state calls) “a timely manner”, is a completely amicable split.

2: Overpayments have to go back. Immediately. If there’s an error, like several thousand of Texans found out this week, the government needs that cash back before you can access any more. If you’re not watching your bank account to make sure you’re getting the exact same check each time and you have an overpayment, rest assured that mistake isn’t going to take long to correct. Unfortunately, if you spent that money unknowingly–thought you got an ‘in these uncertain times’ kinder and gentler adjustment and have 0 income, you have a problem. Tying into Coronavirus nonsense is point three!

3: There are no sick days. If ever you’re unable to work for any reason, be it a car accident, childbirth, horrible internal infection (see also no-health-insurance-itis), you are legally required to report it, and you will not be paid for any days you were incapacitated. Personally, my no-health-insurance-itis came with a bad fever and bedrest order that axed me out of my part time job AND killed my unemployment benefits for the week I spent getting my internal organs to like me again. But as it turned out, the payment denial came at the right time because–

4: Unemployment benefits are finite. Even if you choose to lie on your request forms about how hard you’re searching for work, coasting is ill-advised because once the number the state allots you runs out…it’s out. Don’t lie on your request forms, by the way. In my case, since I got cut from my part-time gig, I got a call from the Texas Workforce Commission about why my hours were short. I was able to point out where I’d reported my sickness to them and to my employer, so my unpaid week rolled over to a later request date. I continued to get paid right up until my hiring date which was also EXACTLY when my benefits ran out.

Unemployment isn’t a career, which is odd considering the fact that unemployment payments are qualified by the government as income.

Ergo, fact number five…

5: Your benefits? They’re taxed.

That’s right, you will be TAXED for not having a job.

The stereotype of the ‘lazy unemployment collector burdening society’ should be fading pretty quickly for the hitherto uninformed about now.

To bring it back to my story, I’d completely forgotten that when I filed for unemployment in the first place, I’d asked for my taxes NOT to be withheld from it–assuming that I wasn’t going to be searching for full time work for very long. I figured “Well, I’ll have a tax refund coming since I’ll get work again no problem, it’ll cancel out.”

Except, it was a problem. Because of the nine month situation.

I’d completely forgotten about it by the time I threw myself into my new job, but after doing my taxes, triple checking the laws and what I’d signed, it was clear. Somehow…despite being at my lowest point in life, I owed the highest amount in taxes, somewhere around the 2k mark.

Despite being based on a system that’s tied to how much income you were getting before, and all the frustrating “safeguards” put in place to keep payments as low and infrequent as possible, Uncle Sam still wants a bite out of the gas-station Hostess pie that is your unemployment check. And as I’m writing this, more and more people are finding that out.

I’d like to end this on a more positive note…so let’s say we’ve all been positively educated! That’s a net gain, surely.

Keep your heads up, and masked.

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Opinion Editorials

COVID-19 acts are unfortunately too short sighted

(BUSINESS NEWS) The biggest flaw in the CARES act is simply that it won’t last. Numerous issues have extended the life of COVID-19 but the act hasn’t matched it.

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rev pay issues act

The CARES act gives an additional $600 weekly to those on unemployment assistance. The idea being that, combined with the $380 already granted by unemployment, the payments would roughly equal the wage of the average worker prior to the pandemic- about $1,000 weekly.

But on July 31st, the expansion that CARES provides will expire, and benefits will return to pre-pandemic amounts. Those currently receiving the maximum payment will see a 61% decrease in their income. In states that offer lower benefit payments, that percentage goes even higher. All of this comes during a national rental crisis, and moratoriums on evictions across the country are also nearing their ends or being extended last minute.

This isn’t the first or only “yuge” hole in the federal government’s COVID-19 safety net. Many Americans (this writer included) have seen neither hide nor hair of their promised stimulus checks. The HEROES act, which is being billed as a second round of stimulus money, remains under debate- as it has been for several weeks.

And the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires certain businesses to provide two weeks of paid leave to workers who may be sick (or caring for someone who is) has plenty of problems too, namely the laundry list of exceptions to it.

This is just the most recent push to return to the pre-virus economy before effective protective measures have been put in place for workers and consumers alike. After all, with cases of COVID-19 spiking again in the US, it’s apparent that the act is still absolutely necessary. Our lawmakers either lack patience, or compassion – take your pick. Frankly, I say it’s both.

Not only have countless health experts warned that reopening too early will be disastrous, but if a second lockdown is in our future, all of the time, money, and human lives that went into reopening will be wasted.

There is a silver lining among the storm clouds on the horizon. Because ballooning unemployment has created long wait times for benefit applicants, unemployment assistance programs are shelling out retroactive back payments to those deemed eligible.

Good news, at least, for laid off workers who have been waiting months to hear their fate.

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Opinion Editorials

Women-owned businesses make up 42% of all businesses – heck yeah!

(EDITORIAL) Women-owned businesses make a huge impact on the U.S economy. They make up 42% of all businesses, outpace the national growth rate by 50%, and hire billions of workers.

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Women entrepreneurs make history in the U.S as female-owned businesses represent 42% of all businesses, while continuing to increase at DOUBLE the national growth rate!

Women are running the world, and we are here for it! The 2019 American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, states 13 million women are now self-employed entrepreneurs. From 2014 to 2019, women-owned businesses grew 21%. Think that’s impressive? Well, businesses owned by women of color grew 43% within the same timeframe, with a growth rate of 50%, and currently account for 50% of all women-owned businesses! Way to go! What this also means is that women employ over 2.4 million workers who together generate $422.5 billion in revenue.

What can we learn from these women that’ll help you achieve success in your businesses?

  1. Get informed: In a male-dominated business industry, women are often at a disadvantage and face multiple biases. So, know your stuff; study, research, and when you think you know it all…dig deeper!
  2. Stay hungry: Remember why you started this journey. Write down notes and reminders, goals, and inspirations, hang them up and keep them close.
  3. Ask for advice: Life is not meant to go through alone, so ask questions. Find a mentor and talk to people who have walked a similar path. Learning from them will only benefit your business.

Many of these women found ways to use their passion to drive their business. It may not be exactly what they thought it would be when they started out, but is it ever? Everyone has to start off small and rejection is part of the process. In fact, stories of rejection often serve as inspiration and encouragement to soon-to-be self starters.

Did you know J.K Rowling’s “Harry Potter” book was turned down TWELVE times? Seven books later with over 400 million copies sold, the Harry Potter brand is currently valued at over 15 billion. While you might not become a wizard-writing fantasy legend like J.K Rowling, you sure as heck can be successful. So go for it, and chase your dreams.

If you want to support women-owned businesses, start by scrolling through Facebook or doing some research to find women-owned businesses in your community. Then, support by buying or helping to promote their products. Small businesses, especially women-owned, black women-owned, and women of color-owned, are disproportionally affected by the current economic crisis ignited by a health pandemic. So if you can, shop small and support local. And remember, there’s a girl (or more) doing a happy dance when you checkout!

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