Last weekend I went to my first Women of Joy conference, ours was in Branson, MO which is about a 4 hour drive for us, so not bad.  The conference sells out the night they open ticket registration which is during the conference the year before so last year I had to send deposits with our group to be able to buy my tickets for this year.  My mom was going with me but one of my friends ended up not being able to go so my sister took her spot.  The three of us shared a hotel room and a friend rode down with us but was in a different room.  This was really different from the other women’s conference I went to with our church because it was like our group was so disconnected.  At the last one, which was a Beth Moore conference, we all rode the people mover bus thing and pretty much stayed together other than times were we might have chosen different nearby restaurants or been in our hotel rooms.  This time, we all took separate cars, grouped up as we wanted and met down there.  We sat together as much as possible during conference times but there was always someone missing, sitting elsewhere for whatever reason.  Meals were on our own and free time on our own with everyone doing what they wanted.  The only time everyone was really together, it seemed, was at the hotel Friday and Saturday night for pizza and a cannonball competition in the pool (of which only like 4 women participated in while the rest of us watched) and then ice cream on the second night.  Even then, some people were missing.  One woman had gotten pregnant and had the baby since the tickets were purchased and he, as I understand it, ended up not being very cooperative, and I rarely saw her.  But I think in the long run, everyone had fun.  It was just different.
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Thumbtack… service or rip-off?

19 Mar 2014 In: Days Go By

I’ve been a user of Thumbtack as a professional for several several months now and have spent a decent amount of money on credits.  I have sent lots of quotes and have gotten a few replies but none of my leads has resulted in any work.  Now, I know it’s not me.  I know that I cannot expect to get every job out there, but based on my work and reasonable prices, I should be getting at least some jobs.  The closest I have come is one man who was ready to hire me but we put it on hold because the weather started getting bad, and the woman that flat out said “yes, I want you to do my wedding” but then failed to send in her contract and deposit.

Honestly, I’ve wondered how many real professionals use this site.  Of course, the ones with a lot of bookings don’t need to nor do they have the time, I’m sure.  After talking to him about it, a friend of mine submitted a request for work in my area because he was curious the types of quotes he’d get.  He got back one.  ONE.  From a photographer who, to be honest, was not any good and who lived 80 miles away.  (Think underexposed, over-processed pictures.)

I started to look around the web.  I found that a lot of other people also have this complaint and there is a camp of people out there that believe that Thumbtack actually generates false requests for work to make it look like they have a productive site and get professionals to pay to bid on these fake jobs.  One man even proved this, as far as he was concerned, by asking the “client” baited questions where he knew the answer was “that place does not exist” and the client answered as if they had no idea of the venue in which they were supposedly getting married.  He also posted how when he had credits that he’d purchased that he could use for quotes, he would get a lot more leads than when he did not have credits.  I hadn’t thought about until that point, but that’s completely true.  It’s a way to keep you buying.  (Editing to add, one month later, I exhausted my credits out and I think I am down to 1, which you can’t do anything with.  Since I wrote this post, I have received maybe 3-5 lead emails, when they were once coming several times a day when I had credits.)

Here’s one thing that’s really waving red flags at me: the complete and utter disregard for any kind of consistency.  Case in point: asking questions.  You pay credits to send a quote but you can ask some public questions if you need a bit more info before giving a quote.  I have done this very few times, but 90% or more of the time that I have, my questions have been deleted and/or removed because they were somehow deemed inappropriate.  Of course, I have NEVER asked an inappropriate question.

About a month or so ago, a lead came up asking for someone to do professional head shots in an office setting.  The user stated their budget was “more than $1,000.”  With this info, I was thinking this must be a pretty big company needing to update some kind of directory be it a website or whatever.  So I asked “how many people?”  As a photographer, this is essential information.  If I am going to go to an office and set up lights and a backdrop, it makes a big difference whether there are 5 people to be photographed or 500.  There’s even a big difference between 5 and 50.  It all adds up to time spent and, as we all know, time is money, Jack.  So, really, not an inappropriate question at all as it would give me an idea how much time it would take to shoot and edit/prepare and therefore would help determine my price.  Of course, in typical Thumbtack style, my question was deleted for being inappropriate.  The email telling me this invited me to respond if I had questions.  I basically said, “what up?”  This is where I mention that I had seen other photographers ask this question many times before, and had it answered.  (If you get a lead, you will also get public asked and answered questions when the client answers them.)  Thumbtack responded, after about 5 days, with some lame form letter sounding bull about maintaining the best quality of the site and that the client is given the chance to answer that question when they first fill out the form.  Um, OKAY?  Well the client did not answer that question in the first place, so it needed to be answered; even a range such as 30-40 would have been fine.  Then?  Less than two weeks later, I get another email of a publicly answered question… you guessed it, the question was “how many people?”  (Editing to add that my friend who submitted the request for work said that the form did NOT ask specifically “how many people.”  So I was flat out lied to by the Thumbtack employee.  The form basically had a spot for “anything else you want to add.”)

In reading other people’s accounts of their experience with Thumbtack and questions being deleted or edited, it seems that a lot of questions that might have answers that lead you to realize a lead is fake are the ones targeted.

I know that a friend of mine has gotten some actual jobs from Thumbtack, so I know it can’t be all fake.  But I feel like I have been taken.  I am not laying blame of course, but I joined and spent my money because my friend was getting actual jobs.  So then it begs the question, why can’t I?  Are all the real people who want quotes really that cheap?  I do have to say that one of the responses I got to a quote on a wedding sounded hopeful; they were asking me questions and what not, then suddenly, they told me thanks for my time but they’d decided to go with someone who was “portfolio building” AKA free.

I am done with that site until they can make some changes to better the service and prove that the leads are not fake, such as providing the professional with the client’s info like email address, phone number, etc., so the professional can really follow up with a quote they have sent in.

moto x and the migraine

16 Mar 2014 In: Days Go By

I’ve been trying for several weeks to write a review on my new phone, the Moto X, but I just can’t seem to make my brain take the time to finish it.  Let’s just suffice it to say that I really love it.  I love the customization, the size (I got the 32GB), the features, the UI, etc.  There are very few things I don’t like and there might be ways around them, and I’ve learned to live without.  Such as having arrows on the keyboard, rather than being able to fine tune where my cursor goes, I have to just keep tapping until I get the right spot.  But everything else I love.  I also love being able to say “Ok, Google now” and then ask it something or create a reminder, etc.  The kids think it’s hilarious and they are always trying to imitate my voice to get it to respond to them.  They have yet to succeed.

This morning I had the most bizarre experience, at least for me.  I woke up twice in the early morning hours with this MASSIVE headache.  It seriously could not have been anything but a migraine.  I don’t get very many bad ones and I’ve never had one THIS bad before.  I think the last one was a year ago, or nearly so, and even that one I was functional enough to be able to be driving, just wearing Steve’s fat sunglasses over my glasses to help with the light.  I was completely not functional this time around.  Being Sunday, I said there is no way I can go to church and crashed again on the couch.   Of course, Steve was already gone.  Elijah ended up calling his grandpa to come pick him up so he could go.  I slept on the couch and Kayleigh helped herself to Oreos and watched TV.  Thankfully she’s old enough that I wasn’t having to change diapers or get bottles, etc.

It’s almost 11pm now and it still hurts,  but not near like it was this morning or afternoon.  Sheesh.  I couldn’t even take medication this morning because  I almost threw up taking the one ibuprofen.  I couldn’t eat anything and I don’t take medicine on an empty stomach if I can help it, too.

I really have some things to figure out though.  I think that after all that sickness I had at the end of 2013 and into 2014, I walked away with a pinched nerve.  Possibly.  If it’s not a pinched nerve, it’s something much worse.  Have already had my eyes tested and the eye doctor says it’s not them.  I have read that pinched nerves don’t necessarily come with pain and a massage has been suggested to me.  I think I might know the area in which it would be.  So I really need to start there and get one, especially if I get more of these horrible headaches.

Ahhhh so glad it’s gone down now.  I slept so so much today and now it’s time I should head to bed, too.  I guess only morning will tell us if the kids are going to school or not.  As my friend said, “Mother Nature has lost her marbles.”  70 degrees yesterday and I did a wonderful engagement shoot and today it’s snowing buckets.  Crazy.

moiI'm Valerie and this is where I talk about random things as well as what interests and keeps me occupied: photography, digital scrapbooking, crochet for fun and sale, Origami Owl (see below), or whatever else I feel like! I'm the mother of two, including a preemie who's now a toddler diagnosted with apraxia (of speech), a wife of one, and a second generation homeschooler.

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