Don’t Waste Your Life, Always Read

About a year ago I woke up. There was a reason for this, which I’ve written about before. Now I can’t shut up about it.

I’ve been reading as much as I can get my hands on. I’m constantly buying new books. Yesterday I was at a second hand store and picked up six new books for less than $5.

My main source of reading is audio books. I listen to audio books while I walk in the morning, while I clean around the house, when I’m doing “right-brained” work. I’m constantly increasing my knowledge. Audible is AWESOME for this. I pay for a monthly subscription for two credits. Often I’ll buy more than that when a book is on sale or cheaper than the credit amounts.

Every day I read my Bible. This book and I have had a long journey together. God has been so good to me. Throughout my whole life He has been caring and providing for me in every way. I read out of my Bible every morning to learn what He’s trying to say.

If you’re a Christian, and you haven’t read through the entire Bible yet, I encourage you to start now. It really isn’t that long. For reference, one audio version of the Bible I’m reading is 97 hours and 58 minutes long. In contrast the entire Audio series of Harry Potter is 117 hours and 4 minutes. Hmm.. I wonder which one has more long term value. If you were to start listening to the audio version of the Bible for an hour a day you could read through the entire Bible in a little over three months.

So what type of books are good to listen to? I can only share from the experience I’ve had so far. I’m planning to start a reading page on my site, and will highlight my journey as I go forward, letting you know which books I like and don’t like.

I enjoy reading books that are inspiring and uplifting. Books that can make me a better person in some way by teaching me something new or sharing a story that has value. Right now I’m limiting my reading to books that are nonfiction. I may start listening to some fiction books at some point, but I want to be selective about them, making sure they have some type of value.

When Not Requiring a Down Payment Taught Me a Valuable Lesson

I landed my first paid design project when I was 13 years old. I will protect the guilty by changing the name of the owner, we’ll call him Bob.

My job was to create several hundred icons for an online kids gaming website. Designing icons was fun for me. So when Bob contacted me, it was a dream come true. My first chance to get paid to do something I loved.

In my young understanding we had a gentleman’s agreement that I would be getting paid about $500, a huge amount to me at the time, in exchange for designing hundreds of icons for Bob’s site.

I spent hours meticulously creating the icons on my computer. Sure, they weren’t all great, but it was the best I could do at the time. Looking back at my work I still think some of them looked pretty awesome.

When I was done done I showed the work to Bob. He thanked me, asked for the original source files, and said the check was in the mail. Over the next few months Bob said the check was in the mail 3-4 times. I finally realized there was no check. I had been scammed. Years later it still hurts. Thankfully I learned a valuable lesson at a young age.

Instead of being bitter, let me share three positive things I’ve learned from this project:

  1. Get it in writing

    Never start a project until you have an agreement in writing that states the exact amount you will be paid.

  2. Don’t start until you have a down payment.

    Always get a down payment, usually this is 50% of the total amount you’ll be paid. For larger projects I sometimes accept a third of the payment initially, a third in the middle of the project, and a third upon completion.

  3. Don’t do spec work.

    Spec work is when you create a website, or do design work, for free in hopes of getting paid IF the client likes your work. Often this happens when multiple designers are bidding for work with a prospective business.

    If you really want experience doing websites offer to help a non-profit or ministry for free. Then, when you’re done add them to your portfolio and ask for an awesome testimonial.

  4. Always get a down payment for your work up front. If a potential client insists that they see some design ideas before paying you, be careful. There’s two reasons they could be doing this.

    1. They’ve worked with inexperienced designers in the past who were willing to work for them in hopes of getting paid, also knows as spec work.
    2. They are going to rip you off.

    Either way your job is to educate in a polite manner and explain that you don’t work for free. If you’ve explained this thoroughly and in a patient way, and they still refuse to pay you, they probably weren’t going to anyway.