A Freelancer Needs a Reliable BATNA

BATNA stands for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. It's an important concept for a freelancer to know and it's part of why I am such a fan of Textbroker that people who read this blog sometimes accuse me of being a paid shill and think this blog is just content marketing for them.

I also blog -- and this is not my only blog -- and I sometimes do client work outside of Textbroker. But developing an income from blogging and developing a client pipeline outside of Textbroker has been a painfully slow process for me.

Textbroker serves as my BATNA for both of those activities. And while the money I make through Textbroker matters to me quite a lot, the psychological power of knowing that Textbroker is my BATNA is at least as important to me, if not more so.

The reality is my medical situation means I sometimes don't do Textbroker for weeks at a time. But Textbroker is part of my alternative to "FU money," an approach I call being Independently Poor.

Whether I am actively drawing a paycheck from Textbroker this week or not, Textbroker remains my BATNA. That's very psychologically and logistically powerful and empowering.

I don't have to accept arrangements I don't like just to try to have something coming in because I'm desperate. One of the consequences of working for Textbroker is I feel comfortable saying "Pay me first" when I work for clients outside of Textbroker.

I've written some about this before on this site in a piece called The Value of Not Chasing Your Pay. Most freelancers chase their pay an estimated 40 percent of the time.

I don't do that. When I work for Textbroker, they handle that piece of things. When I work outside of Textbroker, I get paid up front.

I still spend up to half of every month struggling to come up with enough money to eat. I wrote about that recently in a post on r/GigWorks.

I was really broke when I wrote that last week and then I ended up with enough money to eat for the next few days from tips. Last night, I was down to about eight dollars and wasn't feeling well and was wishing I were dead.

I'm medically handicapped and was not only broke last night, I was physically miserable and short of sleep. The money element was a big stressor because I was having eye pain and I knew I could fix that with a cup of coffee and an orange, but I didn't feel I could afford that because that eight dollars potentially was all the money I would have for the next two days. If so, I needed to conserve it for other things.

I fell asleep at something like 10pm and woke up around 1:30am or so. While asleep, I went from having about eight dollars in available funds to having around $140.

So I am relatively flush for the moment and I can afford that cup of coffee and orange later this morning when stores re-open. I will be splurging a bit on snacks and what not today to take care of ourselves.

Having slept a bit and woke up with less eye pain and more money, I'm no longer suicidal. And that's one of the reasons I write this blog (among others) and run things like r/GigWorks: Because I know that having some money coming in and some ability to come up with more earned income on short notice is literally one of the reasons I don't kill myself.

I have been suicidal for years and this began following a violent assualt when I was twelve years old. When my current situation is bad enough, it's not uncommon for me to wonder "What is the point in living?"

I have long been open about my suicidal tendencies and one of the things I tell people when the subject of suicide comes up in online discussions is "Help people problem solve. People who are suicidal are frequently people with serious, intractable personal problems and no one will help them fix it."

I believe that's a primary root cause of suicidal tendencies and it gets largely overlooked. Instead of getting help to resolve their "impossible" problems, people who are suicidal get told they are merely crazy, which is, itself, crazy making and helps push you over the edge.

It's enormously disempowering and psychologically horrible to basically be told you don't have real problems and it's all in your head. When your problems are so bad they make you feel like death is the only way out and other people implicitly tell you "Your problems aren't really that bad and we absolutely aren't willing to help you fix them." that's a good way to end up pushed over the edge.

So one of the reasons I blog is to try to create resources to help people with intractable personal problems because I believe firmly that helping people resolve their problems is an effective antidote to suicidal ideation. I think providing people with useful information to help them fix their problems is generally superior to directing them to a Suicide Hotline.

I feel like you aren't going to find the kind of information I am providing elsewhere. I feel that way because I am routinely told on the internet that people like me "shouldn't have to work."

Well, great, that sounds nice and compassionate, but are you going to do a fundraiser for me so I can stop working? The answer to that is "No" and has been "No" for a lot of years and was "No" when I as literally homeless.

So, among other things, I write this blog to give people like me -- who can work sometimes, but who have serious constraints on their ability to work -- hope and a practical path forward when most of the world seems to say "Too bad, so sad. People like you shouldn't have to work -- but I got nothing for you in reality and not really my problem."

Internet comments of that sort often make me want to spit nails. It's peformative compassion. It's virtue signaling.

And it's not only not real help, it actively interferes with finding real solutions because it promotes the idea that someone like me shouldn't be trying to fix my life. I should just accept being a helpless -- and hopeless -- charity case.

If you can spare some money, please leave a tip or support my Patreon. Supporting my work doesn't just pay my bills, it also helps me to help others who are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness by providing useful information of a sort not readily found elsewhere.

And right now is a particularly bad time to be homeless. Many things are closed due to the pandemic, including libraries and other services that matter more than average to the poorest of the poor in America.

A huge THANK YOU to my current Patreon supporters and anyone who has ever left me a tip.