Freelancer: How to Avoid Scams and Find Solid Work!

So if you’ve read any of my posts before, you’ll be fully aware that I tend to rant about stuff (hence the hugely unimaginative name for my blog) and perhaps you’ve even read my previous Freelancer post which details by almost entirely negative experience when taking the initial steps towards becoming a freelance writer. Today, I’m going to try and summarise some of the main points that can help you to not only find solid work but avoid all the dipshits who will try and take your time, money or both. I’ll throw in a few personal experiences here and there but ultimately I’m going to try and keep this as concise as possible…something I inevitably failed to do!

What is Freelancer?

Freelancer

image via CareerLancer

So Freelancer is a hub, of sorts, whereby freelance workers can find employment (and vice versa). I hate many, many, MANY aspects of it because the site, it’s rules and it’s charges are absolutely criminal…but once you start finding work, you can’t help but look beyond these downsides. It should be noted that if you can find work ANYWHERE else, I’d recommend doing so. I tried UpWork but even once my profile was approved I couldn’t find a single job. So this post will focus solely on Freelancer but I’m sure much of what I’m going to say here can be applied to other similar sites.

Main Freelancer Scams

Freelancer

image via Get the Gloss

Again, if you want to see the negative side of Freelancer (which is the side that greets you upon joining) then you only have to head over to my previous post on the topic. I’m sure you’ll be able to feel my rage through the screen. Freelancer is not a friendly place! Not only are many, many people looking to rip you off (one way or the other) but the staff and their “rules” are not going to help you out in the slightest. Sure, if you report someone then they will deal with it…but if you lose money or don’t get paid then they pretty much just leave you to struggle with it on your own. As such, I’m going to take you through some of the common problems you will likely encounter, how you can avoid them and some of the tell-tale signs of a scammer.

Stealing your Time

One problem you are almost guaranteed to encounter is people who don’t pay you. I know, I know, you’re wondering why I’ve titled this section “stealing your time” rather than “stealing your money”…trust me, all will be explained! So when you accept work from anybody, you essentially enter into a contract with them: in exchange for you completing the tasked job, they will pay you the agreed upon amount of money. In an ideal world, that is exactly how it would work. Freelancer is far from ideal.

Any time you start off with a new employer, you run the risk that you’ll work your ass off and then they’ll simply take the work and vanish. When I first started out this happened to me a lot! There are of course some simple steps to take in order to avoid this from happening. We’ll take a look at these in a moment.

Stealing your Money

Of course Freelancer is in many ways an investment…an investment that will not pay off if you can’t avoid the scammers. As I mentioned before, Freelancer will do NOTHING in relation to your money. Here’s why this is a problem for you: Every single time you accept a new project, you get charged a fee. This fee varies but is usually an absolute minimum of 3 pounds, dollars, Euros or whatever else. Long story short, you have to pay to work for an employer. You’re essentially betting that they will pay you. We’ll touch on this in more detail during the next section but one thing to keep in mind is don’t hastily accept projects without discussing details with employer first.

Also keep in mind that people can be dicks…and so you might accept a project that sounds great and then the person just leaves. Sure, you don’t lose any time because you haven’t done any work yet…but you do lose money. I was spending more money than I was making when I first started out and the staff at Freelancer refuse to do anything to help because freelancers being ripped off benefits them. The system isn’t broken; it works exactly how they planned it.

These are basically the two main issues you’re going to encounter. So how can you avoid these? In all honesty, I’m not sure you can completely. When you first join the site you have no reputation at all. Nobody paying a decent amount of money is going to want to employ you and so you need to dive into the murky waters and just hope that the greedy river goblins don’t drag you down under!

Avoiding the Scammers

Freelancer

image via R Capital Associates

Let’s take a look at the simplest methods for staying away from these scummy pieces of shit! I’ll write this based on the assumption that you’re completely new to Freelancer and therefore have no reputation, no reviews and often no choice but to aim low.

1. No Reputation or Information

The first red flag is a pretty standard one. If the profile contacting you is brand new (especially if it was made within the last week) and is blank, then they probably have no long term plans for the site. Sometimes, when you click on a profile, it will take you to the employee page instead of the employer page. This means that even a reputable employer may appear to have no reviews. You can always ask the employer if they’ve work on the site before and you can ask for a direct link to their employer page if you’re having any problems.

Similarly, if the profile has a small number of reviews but ultimately still appears largely blank, this can be a red flag. You don’t want to rely entirely on the reviews as many profiles will work with other profiles to give fake reviews. Obviously if they have an incredibly large sample then you have less to worry about. A blank profile alone isn’t enough to ditch a potential employer but its the first red flag out of what could be many.

2. Taking Work Off-Site

This is something that the Freelancer site will reiterate to you over and over again…of course, the reason they do it is because they don’t want their site to be used for networking and then to lose out on off-site financial transactions. They also claim that it relates to their ability to help site users but that’s absolute bullshit. Not once have they helped me in any way and they won’t ever, ever, EVER give you any money back.

However, not a single person who wanted to move the conversation off-site was fully trustworthy. One of them even paid me for half the work and then just disappeared from the face of the world. Bearing in mind that half the work was about 12 articles! I keep using free versions of copyscape to try and track down the work that I did for them! Other examples include transcribing jobs that involved working over a long period of time before being able to “claim” money. Sketchy projects like these should be avoided where possible.

3. Always, Always, ALWAYS Use the Milestone System

When you first start out, you’re going to come across a lot of incredible sounding jobs. These jobs will often state straight away that payment is every Tuesday or every two weeks or even every month. I even had someone try to hire me for 6 months of work, claiming that I’d get paid at the end. Even if the project sounds like your dream job, keep your expectations low and remain level-headed.

The simplest way to root out a scammer is to demand that you’re paid for each piece of work. You don’t have to be aggressive or rude about it. For example, whenever I bid for a project I always mention that I work strictly through the milestone system. To clarify this point, I’ll confirm with any potential employer BEFORE accepting the project that payment will be for each portion/piece of work. Any respectable employer will agree to that. After all, you know nothing about this person. Are you just supposed to take it on faith that they’ll keep their word?

Once you start to build a professional relationship with someone and you know that payment won’t be an issue, you can begin to cut back on the use of the milestone system. For example, my current employer started off by paying me per article, then every two articles. Once I started getting regular work, this spread to once a week and now I tend to just wait until I’ve completed the project in its entirety before asking for payment. So my advice would be to set up any sort of milestone just to find out if a potential employer is actually willing to pay or not.

4. Get ALL the Details before Accepting a Project

Again, this may seem like common sense but once you start finding projects that sound interesting, it can be a natural reaction to jump the gun a little bit. No matter how compelling and detailed a project description was when you bid for it, establish everything you can about the project within the chat function on the site. The more details you can compile within this window, the better. Ask questions such as: When is the deadline? What sort of work is it? How long does everything need to be? What is the total payment? How will the milestone payments be divided up? What style of writing will it be?

You’re probably wondering why this is so important prior to accepting any project. It actually serves three functions. For starters, it helps root out scammers from the get go. They tend to reveal details that simply sound sketchy or they will try to keep certain details from you. Secondly, it will stop you from accepting a project that will be hell to complete. I’ve made the mistake of accepting a project with very few details and while they only took a few hours to complete, it was painfully dull. The problem is that as soon as you accept the project you’re financially invested and so to just breakeven, you have to complete the work. Failure to do so not only results in loss of money but also in a negative review. This brings me to my third point.

In the event that your employer tries to dupe you into doing more work and you’re worried that failing to do so will result in negative reviews, you NEED to have all the information at hand. Freelancer staff can remove negative reviews if (and only if) you can provide evidence that the employer was being dishonest or manipulative in some way. So have everything detailed in the chat is a great back-up option.

5. If It Sounds Too Good to be True, It Usually Is

Another worrying scam that I’ve only recently encountered on the site is people trying to steal your identity. Freelancer isn’t the only freelance site but as far as I’ve found, it’s actually one of the easier ones to get work from. Upwork, for example, requires you to be approved. As such, people will steal your identity (sometimes through promising payment for doing so) and will use your face and qualifications on other sites. My encounter with this was a guy offering me a project involving writing film reviews. The pay was good (too good) and he claimed he needed proof of my qualifications and UK residency.

I don’t actually live in the UK but according to my driver’s license, I do. So I sent this scumbag my scanned copy of my university degree and a photo of me holding my driver’s license. I purposefully hid my full address as I was aware that the whole ordeal seemed off. The piece of shit then came up with some excuse like “my marketing manager has just informed me that we need your full address to send you information that can’t be sent online”. On that note I reported him and his account was deleted.

The first red flag should have been the payment though. That’s not to say that you won’t find great offers on Freelancer. I get paid more now in two weeks than I would in a month at my previous job…but you have to weigh up everything about the employer, the work and all the other aspects I’ve mentioned so far.

6. Use Freelancer as Intended

The final point I’m going to mention is related to other project types that you may come across on Freelancer. As I mentioned in the last point, people may try and employ you to set up profiles in your name and with your experience on other sites. This will typically involve uploading confirmation photos, forms of ID, etc. Don’t…just don’t! These are never, ever, ever going to end well and you’re just allowing yourself to be noticed in a negative light on these other sites. When I first started on Freelancer, I fell for one of these scams because it sounded simple.

For over a month, this person used a profile that was in my name and with my photo and information. I refused to give up complete control of the account and when they refused to pay me (the account had already been blocked by this stage) I simply messaged the staff at UpWork and explained the situation in full. All I wanted was to have my information removed.

Another example is people trying to buy bitcoins. I almost fell for this one and it is only through complete luck that I didn’t. Some guy was looking to buy bitcoins for more than they are worth. I had some spare and thought, why not? What you have to remember is that transactions can be reversed. So this guy sent me like $200 which appeared on my Freelancer account. I was just about to send him the bitcoins, I had everything set up and just need to click “done”…when I thought I’d double check the money…and it was gone. This guy had essentially reported himself to Freelancer who reversed the transaction because it broke terms and conditions and had I sent him the bitcoins, I’d have been down over $100. Just use Freelancer for the jobs it allows. I mean the staff aren’t going to help you with anything anyway but they certainly won’t help you if you break their rules.

7. Freelancer is NOT Your Friend

This point might sound a little ridiculous but it’s something that I’ve mentioned a bit throughout this post. However, after posting this article I decided that I should come back and make this lesson/warning a point of its own: Freelancer is NOT your friend. The staff are not there to help you, they aren’t there to help you earn money, they aren’t there to make sure that you get a fair deal, they aren’t there to stop you getting ripped off. No…their sole function is to earn money for the site and avoid people taking business off-site.

Am I paranoid? Possibly…but not in regards to this. I recently completed a project and in doing so one of my milestones had to be updated to a higher amount. To do this, the employer has to send the employee (me) a milestone removal request. When you receive this request, it comes with the following message:

Once you approve the request, the milestone will be removed from the project. If you decline, the milestone will remain unchanged. However, it’s likely your employer will initiate a dispute process and may leave a negative review.”

So essentially, if you read between the lines here, Freelancer are telling you that failure to accept this change (regardless of what the change is) will likely result in the employer giving you negative feedback.

I subsequently ended up on another page and found this:

Please note, the only way to gain feedback and reputation is to be paid through Freelancer.com. The higher your reputation, the higher you will appear in the bid list for future projects. 
Freelancers with the highest reputation are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year!
Remember to communicate regularly with the employer. Lack of communication is the leading cause of problems.

Even when they are trying to sell you the idea of joining Freelancer, they are still trying to stop you from taking money or work off-site. I can understand this from a business perspective but shouldn’t customer support be the priority? This company is so focused on earning money that their moral compass spins Beyblade (90s reference).

Assume that Freelancer will not support you, no matter how right or wrong you may be, because chances are they won’t!

Finding Solid Work

Freelancer

image via Tech Juice

Obviously, the main goal of any freelancer is to find solid work. Going from project to project, achieving very little experience or money is not a great long-term plan. When you first join, you’re going to be slightly disadvantaged but everyone starts off in the same position. In this section I’m going to share some tips for finding solid work.

1. Flesh out Your Profile

This one should go without saying. If your profile is blank, you don’t have a picture, you haven’t uploaded any examples of your work into your portfolio and you haven’t worked a single project yet, then you’re unlikely to find any long-term work. Take some time to really sell yourself! If you don’t have examples of any work then write some. I simply used previously written blog posts or university essays as mine. Simply edit them, make them presentable, and then upload them. It’s really that simple.

2. Take Advantage of Freelancer Offers

On top of charging you fees per project, Freelancer also has the audacity to limit site functionality to those unwilling to pay for a membership. When you’re starting out on Freelancer, using the free membership is going to be extremely challenging. You only get 8 bids and it takes about 90 hours for just 1 bid to regenerate. However, they will often offer trial memberships for new members and if they do, take it! I got about 300 bids with my trial membership. Just remember to go on and deactivate the auto-renewal. I simply set a reminder on my calendar for the day before it would renew and then I cancelled it.

If there aren’t any trial memberships available, I would recommend paying for one month of membership. Starting out on Freelancer is all about building up a reputation and with 8 bids, that’s going to be nearly impossible. Look at it this way, you’ll likely use up all 8 bids on your first day and in order for you to regenerate all 8, you need to wait 30 days!!! Obviously the bids regenerate one at a time so you won’t be completely without bids but getting work with a blank profile is challenging and you really do need as many bids as possible.

3. Start from the Bottom

Step 3 is unfortunately not a fun one. When you’re new to Freelancer and have zero reviews, you’re going to have to do some boring-ass work. Not only is it boring but it pays practically nothing. You need to just look at it as an investment. As long as you’re making enough money to at least cover your membership (if you had to pay for one) and your fees, then do anything you can. Find work that is simple and quick!

My advice would be to go for small pieces of work that require little to no time. Even if you do them for free, most reviews are done per project so if you do 5 or 6 small projects that take maybe two or three hours then you’ll already be off to a great start. This is the only time I’d suggest working for the middle men (something we’ll touch on in a moment). Ideally, you want to get each small piece of work from a different employer but make sure that it is related to the work that you want to do. For example, if you want to write creatively, don’t do SEO or copywriting. Do creative writing! Only move to other areas if you’re struggling to find any work at all.

4. Demonstrate your Ability

Working through Freelancer is one way to demonstrate you writing ability (assuming that that is the area of work you’re doing) but you need sources from outside the website as well. The more ways that you can demonstrate your passion for your work, the more likely it is that people will hire you for more long-term projects. If you’re planning on doing blog writing, then start a blog.

I have three blogs on the go at the minute: this one, my mental health/travel blog and a random weed blog. So I cover a range of different topics. If you don’t have the time or energy to start your own blog then you need to at least contribute to an already existing blog. If you need a way to do this then follow this link and you can write a guest post on my travel blog. Then at least you can send evidence of your work.

Similarly, if you’re trying to enter a niche area of writing, you need to demonstrate a passion for it. I regularly contribute to a movie review site called Movie Babble, where I’ve written about Braveheart and Star Wars movies. Why? Because I love writing about movies and it’s the area I hope to one day work in. Even if you only write one guest post somewhere, it’s just another piece of evidence that demonstrates your ability and passion.

5. Avoid the Middle Men

Now, this one is going to seem a little strange and ultimately, you may choose to ignore this step depending on the sort of work you wish to be involved with. The “middle men” are employers who are part of an agency. Working for them is going to pay very little, involve incredibly dull work and rarely benefit your exposure (if at all). This is how the middle men work:

They bid on as many jobs as they can find (sometimes on other websites). They then hire people like you to do the work, paying you half (sometimes less) of what they are getting paid. Typically, they give you multiple pieces of work involving various types of writing and payment is usually delayed quite drastically. You then get one review for 6 or so pieces of work while their profile gets a positive review from you and from the original employer. This then boosts their profile and allows them to get more and more projects.

I suggest avoiding these people for two reasons. A) They are shady as fuck! That’s not really a reason but I felt like I should mention it. As I said a moment ago, payments are always delayed, you’re paid very little and they are awful at leaving reviews. When you’re starting out, it can be a handy place to start but once you’ve already received several reviews, you need to move away. You can get solid work from such people but you will not make much money doing so. B) Allowing these people to win more and more project bids means there is less and less work going directly to Freelancers. It just creates more of a long-term problem.

6. Build Relationships

When you’re starting out, you’ll find that you build relationships with people. If they only offer you pennies for work and they are nothing more than a stepping stone then just forget about it and move on…but if you’re writing frequently for them and you know they’ll need more work in the future then don’t be afraid to ask for more money. For example, if you had written for the same employer for a few months because the work was pleasant enough but the pay was a little less than what you needed. Wait until you’ve completed a project and when they offer you a new one, simply state that you can only do it for an increase in payment.

Similarly, if you work for someone and the work isn’t incredibly boring but the payment isn’t great, provided it isn’t taking up too much of your time, it can be useful to continue doing the work. To give you an example, when I first started out and had reached the stage of clawing my way out of the mud, I got work writing blog posts about Pompeii, Italy. My employer and I got on well, I did everything to his guidelines and met all expectations and as I enjoyed writing about the topic, I continued to do so. Was I getting rich? No…but I was still getting paid, still getting reviews and creating more examples of my work, ultimately creating a higher level of exposure.

Now, I’m working once again for the same employer but this time I’m writing information on Ancient Roman structures for a Rome guide app. I love learning about history and Rome is one of my favourite places in the world so the opportunity is excellent. Not only that, but once it’s completed and released, I can download the app and demonstrate it as my work.

7. Exposure

Exposure isn’t as big an issue when you’re first starting out. That being said, the more published work that you can get your name attached to, the better. This is usually a problem when you’re starting out as most of the work isn’t related to you. You might be doing someone’s psychology homework (true story) or gathering information on types of violins (also a true story). So in these instances you’re not going to be involved with the process beyond supplying your work.

However, if people are asking you to write blog posts or something similar, then getting your name somewhere on the website (or at least getting a link that you can send future potential employers) is a vital step. That adds to the previous point of developing relationships with your employers. If you can get to know them and ask for your name to be credited somewhere (even if it means you’re paid slightly less) then it’s worth doing.


Thanks for reading! Are there any other insights I can offer you about freelancer work (particularly on Freelancer) or do you have any questions? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

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Wattpad Story: The Weight of a Heart

In order to practice creative writing before tackling the gigantic task of writing a full-blown book, I’ve decided to work on some short stories every once in a while to keep the creative juices flowing. So I’ve joined Wattpad and have uploaded my first story to it: a sort of thriller/horror that mixes Ancient Egyptian mythology with modern day life (in a manner of speaking). As this will be my first completed short story to be published on Wattpad, I figured I may as wells share it here as well. If you’re already a Wattpad user, you can follow this link to go straight to the story! Here is the opening chapter:

 

Chapter 1: A Day to Remember

The somewhat slow and staggered manner in which I am walking may lead some to believe that I’m drunk, perhaps returning from happy hour during a lunch break. While this may not miss the mark by much, in truth my head is simply lost in the clouds or away with the fairies…perhaps away with the fairies in the clouds. Long story short: I’m lost in a day dream or at least what feels like a day dream. Was I remembering something? Perhaps something I was supposed to do today…well, whatever it was it’s gone: Hardly surprising given the circumstances. I can practically still taste and smell last night’s alcohol and the pounding sensation in my brain was the familiar signal from my body to say that drinking too much alcohol has consequences, the thumping headache being just one of many. Me and my significant other, Riley had attended our friend Nick’s birthday party and had agreed that neither of us would drink. Evidently her willpower trumps mine…which is hardly surprising. My own 28th birthday had only been a few weeks earlier but due to our current financial situation (especially with my pay being cut for my job at the bank) we decided to skip throwing a big bash and simply relax a little. We spent most of the time walking our dog, Sam. She was still young and was my birthday present to myself only three years earlier. The uniqueness of having one blue eye and one brown eye had immediately ruled out the possibility of me choosing any other puppy from the litter of Border Collies, all of whom were black and white…apart from one brown oddball.

The path I’m following begins to gently slope down towards the dock which just so happens to be the destination I’m heading to. I’m walking next to what appears to be a recently cobbled road. Each brick seems perfectly situated and I can’t begin to imagine how long it must have taken to complete.  The midday sun is blaring down with incredible heat and the scene would be one of complete and utter beauty, were it not for the distant wails of an ambulance siren…perhaps more than one, screeching away in the distance. Moments like this always have to have at least one flaw. A faint but cold wind blows and despite being so weak that even the lightest leaves don’t budge, I can hear the distant sounds of someone talking. I can’t make out the words but it doesn’t really matter anyway. I take a moment to stand still and appreciate just how beautiful this place is.  As I look around at all the open land by the side of the lake, I can’t help but feel like I’m experiencing something completely new, almost as if I’d never seen this sight in my entire life. I take a moment to try and recall why I’m going to the docks in the first place…what I do know is that there will be a boat leaving soon and that I should be on it. I hadn’t even been sure where to get the boat from but the voice of the man who gave me directions is still ringing loudly in my mind. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was alone, I’d swear he was standing right beside me.

As I begin to continue my walk down the path, I admire the massive lake and it’s deep blue glow which despite being a darker blue than the sky, also seems to give off a hint of green. The sheer size of the lake was in itself remarkable and was it not for the stone lighthouse signalling the existence of land on the horizon you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that this was actually the sea. The one giveaway was the lack of tides. Although, there did appear to be a gradual flow of the water which moved much slower yet more erratically than any river I’d seen. Perhaps the inflow of water from further along the bank is the cause of this effect. The somewhat empty field to my left is suddenly home to a large stone slab. The yellowish colour of what appears to be sandstone bared the burden of what is a larger, thinner stone slab with chiselled writing. The untarnished and perfectly intact stone suggests that this was a recent addition to the otherwise empty field and where it not for the sand which appears to have found its way this far up the hill, I would perhaps guess that it was put here only yesterday.  I used my hand like a brush in order to sweep the travelled sand off the text as if uncovering a buried artefact.

“O people of the earth, men and women born and made of the elements, but with the spirit of the Divine within you, rise from your sleep of ignorance! Be sober and thoughtful. Realize that your home is not on the earth but in the Light. Why have you delivered yourselves unto death, having power to partake of immortality?”

Various symbols and pictures (none of which seem to represent a larger meaning, at least not as far as I can tell) surround the text itself. Riley was always the brains of our pairing, if she was here now I’m sure she’d be able to come up with some deeper understanding of this random nonsense. I can’t help but imagine that some pompous rich man perhaps believed they were more intelligent and insightful that they actually were and simply paid money to have this slab put here. Regardless, the day is getting on and there are surely bigger fish to fry than reading slabs.

As I approach the docks, I see a queue of people lining up near a small wooden boat. It wasn’t quite as small as a rowing boat but certainly wasn’t much bigger. Even the smallest rippled in the water made it rock like nothing more than a piece of rotting driftwood. I glance around with the strong assumption that there must be a larger boat nearby or perhaps coming into dock…with nothing else in sight, I can only conclude that this must be the one I need to get…but where does it go? When did I randomly decide to get on mystery vessels with strangers? Thoughts come and go but none seem to answer any of my self-reflective questioning. Curiosity leads me to join the queue with the others as I watch them get on the boat one by one. Most of them appear to be middle aged apart from a younger woman who is sitting at the very front of the boat. She’s wearing what I could only describe as rags with her baby wrapped up in much of the same. I begin to walk around the queue of people in order to take a closer look, to see what sort of person would raise a child in such poor conditions. The bobbing up and down of the boat (if you can call it that) gave the pair an appearance that was almost statuesque, as if they were frozen eternally in the very position they were currently sitting. Without making my actions too obvious, I manage to catch a glimpse of what appears to be a blonde haired boy, perhaps only a few weeks old but still looking frail and fragile.

“Wait in the line in order to board the boat” a deep and intimidating voice bellowed from behind me…or maybe to the side of me. I could feel chills spread through my entire body and suddenly I begin to feel like the frozen one. Is my heart even beating? Am I shaking? These feelings vanish as suddenly as they appeared as if a veil is ripped off me and so I decide that in order to keep the peace I better head to the back of the line. As I walk past the other passengers, I notice that they all look miserable. Some of them even look pale. Are they scared? They seem to have enlarged pupils and the iris is barely visible at all…if it’s even still there. What sort of boat ride is this? Doubts begin to run through my mind and as I reach my spot in the queue, I notice an elderly woman is standing there. She isn’t like the rest…I mean she isn’t happy but she is the only one that has made eye contact with me thus far and her pupils appear to be of a fairly normal size. Now that I think about it, her eyes are somewhat fixed on me. Should I look away? Should I talk to her? Maybe she knows me and I’ve simply forgotten her face. Her eyes are squinting a little now and her body seems to be trembling slightly. The more I stare into her dark, beady eyes, the more I convince myself that I can see bloodshot forming across the greyish tones of what would usually be the whites of the eyes. Her trembling hand slowly lifts into the air revealing a glistening wedding ring which seems to be the only colour on her that isn’t monochromatic. As one finger points in my direction I take a quick look behind me in the hopes that there was something else she may be pointing at.

As the stark reality that this small, elderly and insanely intimidating woman was pointing at me and me alone, I decided that I did indeed recognise her from somewhere. I had a moment where I lost myself in thought as I try desperately to place her when she opens her mouth to speak. What comes out are not words, but rather a bizarre and terrifying screech. The noise is how you would imagine someone who had lost their voice attempting to scream: that harsh noise that you can only imagine is tearing flesh off the inside of the person’s throat and is painful to even attempt. It wasn’t the volume that was sending my heart into overdrive and my brain into panic mode…it was the attempt to speak and the anger and shock on her face at the realisation that she was unable to do so. Her other hand was grasping tightly around her throat as if she were trying to patch a hole or puncture. Just as the initial shock was beginning to leave my body, words begin to form from the rough and animalistic noise that was leaving her mouth. This mumbling turned into slightly coherent words until with one final attempt she manages to form the sentence: “there is no escaping a heavy heart…and yours will be heavy indeed!” A rather strange message but the desperation she had to share it with me was alarming enough.

If I had still been considering getting on that boat, this would have been enough to sway the decision. I turned around to walk away which is when I noticed that all the people in the queue had also turned around and were now staring at me. I don’t think it is remotely possible for their blank, emotionless faces to be any more chilling. How can faces appear so featureless? It was as if they were all wearing masks with their true emotions hidden away underneath. Part of me wanted to run, another was fixated on these strange characters and why they were behaving in such a peculiar manner…another, smaller part of me wanted to dive into water in the hopes that these strange occurrences were nothing more than a nightmare. I turn around and walk away, not daring to look back to see if I was still the subject of their attention or not…although I got the feeling that their unblinking eyes were fixed on me still. I quicken my pace just in the off chance that they decided to follow me. My destination was unclear but what was clear was that voice in my mind that is seemingly repeating its message about the boat and the queue.

 

If you enjoyed the first chapter and would like to see where the story goes, just follow this link to find the full story on Wattpad!


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Peace!

Freelancer: Why get paid FOR work when you can pay TO work?

So I recently moved to Spain with my girlfriend. I don’t speak Spanish (although I am learning, just very slowly) and I have yet to find a job. I’ve only been here a week but I came to terms with the fact that without a basic understanding of the language, finding a job could be quite challenging. So my solution was to find a job online. I’d started looking before I moved out here and had discovered two freelance writing websites that basically allow you to do writing, data entry, proof-reading, etc for people and get paid to do it. Now, my writing ability is at an average level. It certainly isn’t the highest quality but I can manage the basics at least. So off I went and created my profiles on these websites. The first one, called UpWork, has repeatedly rejected my profile from being accepted onto their website. Apparently they have too many people who match my skills and experience level. So I moved onto the follow-up: Freelancer. I entered with optimism and I left wondering why I would ever have viewed it as anything but a waste of time and money. It all sounds perfect in theory but time and time again I learnt a valuable lesson: People are pieces of shit and Freelancer.com controlled by either morons or scum…quite possibly both!

So let me admit that there are definitely some positive aspects to the site: For one thing, it seems to be very easy to use and navigate your way around, everything seems to work how it’s supposed to and their systems for finding work that match your skillset are pretty good. Of course, that doesn’t remotely begin to make up for the rest of the bullshit you have to wade through.

First of all, in order to get a job you have to “bid”. Now as a free user, you get something like 8 bids which slowly build up again over time. Every project you bid on will have anywhere between 15-120 other people bidding on it as well. If any of these people has a reputation then it is automatically seen as better than your lack of one. So automatically you start off at a disadvantage. Getting your foot in the door is nearly impossible and you end up having to take on huge workloads for practically nothing. Of course Freelancer offers the opportunity to take their tests in order to display your ability. For example, the most frequent one I saw was a ‘level 1 English (US) Test’ which, even as a UK native, I think I could pass. On UpWork you can take as many tests as you like, all of which are completely free. On Freelancer however, this is not the case. This absolutely basic test costs you £5. That might not seem a lot but just keep track of these small costs as we go along and you’ll begin to see why it’s an issue. Luckily for me (or unluckily) Freelancer were offering a 2 week free trial of their “premium membership” which gives you 300 bids. Considering I had used all 8 of mine up in one day, I figured I may as well agree to the free trial and just make the most of it for those two weeks. I mean if it works out then it might even be worth paying for: this premium membership usually costs £19.95 per month. You apparently receive a list of benefits with it but from what I could see, the only useful items were the extra bids and the shiny orange logo that appears on your profile to display your premium status!

So I got to work bidding on projects, contacting people and trying to make my profile a bit more sellable. I added examples of my writing from my blog, as well as some of my academic writing and I even cut down a research report to make it a bit more manageable and uploaded that as well. So as far as I could tell, I displayed my experience and ability for all to see. I didn’t get much of a response on the first day but on the second I thought I’d found the ideal job. An “employer” wanted me to write 5-6 500 word articles every day, 6 days a week. I mean the articles themselves were hardly riveting but it allowed me to work on my writing and research a little bit and get paid to do so; I wasn’t going to start complaining…yet. The issue with this first person was that they’d asked to take communications off Freelancer which I now realise is a major red flag. At the time, I figured that maybe people preferred to discuss things off Freelancer as the site’s chat function is incredibly annoying and tends to be more of a hassle than anything. So I completed my first article, sent it to the guy and got ready to start the second. This was when I received a job offer from another person. The pay was better, they were going to set up the payments through Freelancer and the articles seemed a hell of a lot more interesting. I figured why not do both? So I got to work on this new article, finished it quickly and sent it to the guy. This is where I started to realise how naïve I had been. I messaged the guy on Freelancer and soon discovered that his account had been closed. I had already received an email from Freelancer stating the amount of money I’d earned from that job so I figured that at least I was going to get paid…no. You see, despite the fact that Freelancer takes a percentage of any job from the employee, that money is taken BEFORE you get paid for the job. I mean if they don’t’ have the sense to see the very obvious solution to this then perhaps they are just a group of people who share one brain among 30 of them. So in essence, I had just paid Freelancer £5 so that I could write an article on headphones. I made my first contact with Freelancer via the live chat function and explained that I just didn’t understand: how could they take money from me if there was no guarantee? Obviously (I say obviously, but clearly you require significantly more brain power than those behind the curtain at Freelancer) the smart thing to do would be to take that “deposit” from both parties and in the event that one side bails or turns out to be a scam, then the innocent person gets their money back and Freelancer keeps the other. That doesn’t even cover the time and effort already wasted. I was in the unfortunate position of still having to do articles for the other guy but I wasn’t about to have my time wasted any further: I told him that unless we did it on an article to article basis, then I wasn’t about to complete any more for him. He started preaching about how he wasn’t a scammer and how I’d get all the payments at the end of the week but considering this was all off Freelancer, I decided not to bother. At least I hadn’t paid any moronic deposit for the opportunity to do his work. I mean if Freelancer can’t even provide any sort of guarantee then I wasn’t going to hold my breath for dealings going on outside the site.

So off I went again, searching for some more reliable sources of work. I quite quickly found a man who needed several pages of text proof-read and corrected. He didn’t have any ratings but he agreed to pay in milestones. So I figured that this time I had nothing to lose. I started sorting through the work, making all the corrections and I messaged him as each page was done. At the start, he had told me that he needed this work completed within 3 hours. I went by that deadline and within 3 hours I messaged him to await further instructions. No reply. I messaged again and again, getting more annoyed with every hour that went by until I just took a deep breath and moved on. So now I’d been scammed out of work but I’d also been scammed out of work without even sending it to the person. Who are these people that go on and just waste people’s time and money like that? I’d just lost another £5 to Freelancer for doing work that I didn’t get paid for. I messaged them via the live chat again to find a solution to this problem. The person I talked to didn’t seem to grasp the concept at all. I mentioned the 3 hour deadline and kept getting responses like “it’s only been 3 hours, they might be busy” and “give it more time”…what they couldn’t or wouldn’t admit was that I had been ripped off. Not so much by this employer but actually by Freelancer.

Finally, I found a job with someone who had high ratings. Was this about to be the moment my Freelancer experience finally turned around? No, no it was not! This individual was going to pay me $2.50 per article (about 250 words each) which is about £1.91, meaning I’d have to do at least 6 of these just to cover the losses I’d made so far on the site. Since only geniuses such as them would charge you a percentage of what you’ll get paid before you do get paid. Anyway, I would have 9 articles to do in total which would at least bring me back up to breaking even. I got to work writing the articles but as experience had taught me, I wasn’t about to do all this work without some sort of guarantee. I messaged this new employer and explained that I’d send him one article at a time and he could release the funds as we go. No reply. I figured I’d write a few more articles while I wait on a response just so I can be ready. He’d given me a deadline of 20 hours and since I’d been busy for most of that, I didn’t have a huge amount of time left. No reply. I messaged him again explaining that I would even send two articles at a time if he released $5 afterwards. When he did eventually reply, it was to complain about the fact that he didn’t want to release the money that way. I explained that I’d already lost money on this site and that I wasn’t prepared to do so again. He just kept telling me to send the rest of the articles and then I’d get paid. A whole day went by of me explaining to him that I’d only send more if he paid me for the ones I’d already sent him. After a day or so, he finally told me that he would find someone else to do the work if I didn’t send it. The most annoying aspect of this wasn’t even doing the work without getting paid: it was that I couldn’t even leave the guy a bad review as he could just respond with an equally as negative one and it would make my profile look horrific.

In the end I did finally get a genuine job. I was hired to proof-read and correct a website and the dude paid me in the end. So you would think that I’d be ending this article on a happy note? Not even slightly. I end this post with a warning: Stay as far away from Freelancer.com as you possibly can! Use UpWork or any other freelance website but NOT Freelancer.com. My only successful job paid $30 and while most of this would just cover the losses I’d made trying to find one genuine job on this site, I still viewed it as a moment of success. I wasn’t any more optimistic in relation to the sites functionality and I certainly wasn’t any more trusting of the staff behind it or the employers hiring on it but still, one tiny moment of sunshine breaking through the grey. To avoid any possibility of losing these funds, I immediately went on to withdraw them. Keep in mind that Freelancer had had absolutely no issue whatsoever in taking funds from my account without actually warning me about it (apparently it’s hidden away in a section of their website) yet when I went to withdraw money, my Paypal account suddenly “wasn’t verified”. So they had been trigger happy in draining some Paypal account that hadn’t been verified but when it came to putting money into that account there is suddenly an issue. Once again, I sought the wisdom of the single brained staff (although maybe I’m being generous in assuming that they have one brain between them) of Freelancer’s live chat support. Over and over again I was told that I’d have to contact Paypal. Now, I had been on Paypal over and over again and hadn’t seen a single issue with my verification. I told a little white lie to this barely functional zombie typing on the other end of the chat and suggested that I’d already been in contact with Paypal. I remarked on how confused Paypal had been that Freelancer would be able to take funds from an unverified account but not deposit them. This swiftly led the cave-dweller to send me a link that allowed me to withdraw me funds. Of course, for security reasons, I was required to wait 15 days before said funds would leave Freelancer. This is yet to happen and I can’t say I’m holding my breath. What I expect to happen is that my account will get blocked or suspended for some ridiculously moronic reason and my funds will be lost to limbo *cough* Freelancer’s wallet *cough*.

To my shock yet not necessarily to my surprise, I ended up being unable to withdraw this $30. What happened? Well, I received a job that would pay me $200. Somehow, God knows why, despite all the failings so far and all the scams, hoodwinks, bamboozles, high jinks, etc that I’d already been dragged through, my brain lit up with excitement. Do I even need to tell you what happened? I guess I sort of do as this was once again a whole new situation that cements just how useless Freelancer.com. I had received the payment, it was right there on my Freelancer.com account and just as I went to withdraw it, it vanished. Gone! Poof! Up in smoke! What happened? The transaction was reversed…not because of anything I’d done (other than fucking hard work) but because apparently the user who had sent me the money had violated the site’s terms and conditions in some way and since his account was now blocked, they had to reverse the transaction. A transaction that cost me $20 to accept in a non-refundable deposit that helps pay the wage of money-hungry troglodytes who have been soulless since agreeing to work for Satan’s website: Freelancer.com

So why is Freelancer.com so popular? I’ll tell you why: You get people going on to rip off others who are looking for work. Freelancer have little reason to try and solve any of the problems because they make money from people like me. If they don’t even have the common sense to take deposits from both sides in order to cover the losses when one party bails then perhaps they are just a group of people who share a single brain cell among 30 of them. It really isn’t that difficult to organise. I mean you could have both parties put forward say 50% of payment which gets held in limbo. In the event that the work isn’t completed, then the employee loses their deposit. In the event the employer vanishes or runs off with the work, at least the employee gets something to cover the costs of the retarded fee system that Freelancer runs; At the absolute very least, they should wait until payment has been sent and a job has been successfully completed before they start charging people money. Especially since that is what all their information implies as you go through the process. Freelancer.com may sound (at first) like the ideal situation for any writers but it’s a black hole full of sick and evil people who only exist there to rip you off for everything that they can. If you want to get some people to write articles for free for you, then by all means, visit the website as the staff there will be more than willing to assist you in your schemes and scams. I’d even recommend you message them via the live chat and explain your plans to them. They’ll probably offer you a VIP membership or pay you to act like a genuine employer just so they can make even more money from the sorry sods such as myself…

Are We Simply Thoughts An Alien Is Having?

So I’m currently working on a book and even though I’m still in the very early stages, I’m definitely beginning to make some progress. Rather than force ideas, I tend to just let them come naturally to me and then I see if I’m able to work on them. For example, if I go to bed earlier than usual, I’ll put some headphones on and listen to a playlist (which has since been named “Creativity”) and just see where my mind takes me in relation to my characters and events. When something interesting begins to form, I follow it in my mind much like Alice and the White Rabbit, leading myself down the proverbial rabbit hole.

Without going into too much detail about the book itself, I will mention that there is a religious group that has formed largely based on misinformation and corrupted ideas/beliefs. I’m still working on their overall belief system and while it’s almost fully formed, it’s constantly changing and evolving.

While listening to a particularly inspirational piece of music by Ludovico Einaudi I had this rather bizarre train of thought involving a collective consciousness, different planes of reality seen through different dimensions and grand beings that come together in a way which nobody could ever truly understand, like giant, multi-dimensional jigsaw pieces. While I’d love to talk more about this thought, it is not actually the topic of this entry today: instead I want to discuss the thought that followed.

As I mentioned before, I tend to just get in “the zone” as it were and let my mind and music guide my thoughts. I find that I now have music that applies to certain events or characters within my book and that while listening to it I’m able to quite clearly picture what is happening. It’s like having a film in my head that shows scenes where the music fits: much like the infamous music played during Darth Vader’s arrival in Star Wars.

My characters are still largely undeveloped in terms of personality but their actions are already beginning to define them within my mind. Anyway, while I was continuing on from my dive into potential additional religious beliefs I realised just how insane the human mind can be: Within my mind I’d created this new world that doesn’t exist anywhere else and without my mind it would simply fade from existence. When I close my eyes I can look around this world, I can see the characters that I’ve created and even when I’m not entirely sure what they look like, I know that they are there. It’s like I can see the space they should be taking up. I can watch as my characters interact with each other and with the world around them.

Even more than that: I can travel through both time and space to any moment, anywhere. With a simple thought I can watch different events happening in different ways with different people at different times. These characters aren’t always moved by my thoughts, sometimes they simply act, much like characters in a film.

At this point, I found myself wondering: ‘Is this all that god is?’ I began to wonder if we are simply an idea, a creation that is simply floating around inside the mind of a being greater than our level of understanding. How is any god deemed a creator any different to exactly that? We can never prove or even really investigate whether or not anyone other than ourselves has consciousness. So are we each just the main character in some higher beings created world? Simply a thought that is following a path that it’s been set on?

I remember a comparison that I always found interesting (I believe it was brought up by Alan Watts but that could be wrong) where he questions whether the rest of the world and everyone else in it actually exists out-with our interaction with them/it. He compares this to a video game. When you are playing a video game (take Assassins Creed for example) you can’t see the entire map all the time but as you travel from one side of the map to the other, the area renders and essentially comes into existence. Are there characters at the opposite side of the map from you walking around the streets of Rome? No. But as soon as you move near enough to them, they come into existence and begin to carry out whatever function they were put there to complete.

Once you leave that area they simply fade from the world until they are needed again. You tend to have differing types of characters in this comparison: you have the main/playable character who would of course be you in the real world; you have the story-related non-playable characters, who would be the people you interact with; then you have the secondary non-playable characters who are more like drones, who simply go from one spot to the next to perform whatever task makes them fit into the world.

I don’t believe in a god or gods (I’d actually describe myself as an anti-theist) but I thoroughly enjoy thinking about such matters, especially those that are out-with the typical structure of the modern gods. I feel like IF we were created by higher beings, they wouldn’t have created us simply to sit and watch as we tear ourselves to shreds, they would have created us for a purpose that we just can’t fully understand because it takes place in a dimension not available to us (which is what the religion within my book believe and in fact use to justify any immoral act they may commit). I’m being careful not to turn this into a religious post because its purpose is simply to show that insane ideas are just as likely to be real as any current religion.

This is of course much shorter than any of my other posts but it seemed like an interesting topic to bring up. I’d love to hear any opinions or even any other bizarre ideas that could potentially be a reality. Discussing crazy theories and ideas is incredibly enjoyable. I might make another post in the near future to introduce my fictional religion and the belief system it embodies as well as a brief look at their origin and how that relates to the rest of my book.

[Better Title Pending] – Book Extract

So, unlike my other posts this one is neither a rant nor a rave. Instead I am hoping to receive some feedback on a small extract from a book that I am beginning to write. This is the only scene from the book that I’ve started writing up in any sort of great capacity. I would delve into the content of my book to explain the background but I couldn’t possibly explain it in the detail I would like. Anyway, this scene is pretty self-explanatory and I’d appreciate any sort of advice or feedback regarding its content. This wouldn’t be the final edit of this particular moment but some direction on what I’m doing right or wrong would be great.

It’s probably worth mentioning that the character referred to as ‘H’ in this extract will have a full name but that hasn’t been decided on yet.

 

“How was it that we could sense the ice underfoot? The snow covered all in both texture and sight, and for all we knew it was dirt or ancient road or grass that we slowly crept across…but no, something about this moment echoed ice. It was impossible to tell how thick the frozen film of water was across this vast loch. There were no cracks, no sudden noises, no sinking feeling  to suggest that we could soon feel the ice cold grip of the water below, possibly to never resurface. The image was in my head and no matter how hard I tried, I could not force it to leave. “Maybe we should just go around” I suggested to H, although it came out as more of a plea than a suggestion and his lack of a response was in itself as unnerving as his continued path forward. I looked in either direction and came to terms with the sheer size of this loch. I didn’t remember it being quite as big but as I kept telling myself; it had been a long time since I was last here. My bag weighed the same as me, if not more, and the clothes I had been wearing would soak water up like a sponge. If I fell into the water my lungs would be full of water almost as quickly as the air would leave them. Falling in would be game over. My mind compared each step to taking a turn in a game of Jenga: the first few are ok; in fact they seem impossibly easy. Soon it becomes more challenging and eventually it isn’t a case of ‘if’ the tower will fall, but is instead a matter of ‘when’. H was far off into the distance and his carelessness seemed to be working out well for him so far. The logical thing therefore would be to walk where he walked. Where were his footprints? I looked around but there were none to be seen. I would have let out an anxious laugh in that moment, were it not for the groan that erupted from below my feet as I began to walk in the same direction as H. It sounded like an old wooden door as it creaks slowly open in the wind. My mind was telling me to stand completely still and balance my weight out as evenly as possible on the ice…my body, with its circling overflow of adrenaline had other plans. I wouldn’t describe what I was doing as a run. Instead, it was almost as if I were trying to ice skate but without the skates. What was I doing? I would wonder to myself as the sound of cracking ice seemed to chase me like some sort of monster, snapping at my ankles as I began to increase my pace. The ice was similar to a playful dog: if you stand still and stay calm, it barely reacts. If, however, you sprint in the opposite direction, it will undoubtedly chase after you, catching up in seconds. I could no longer even see H and rather than try and find him, I simply began to aim for the nearest bit of land. The constant white colour made it very difficult to say how far away I was from safety but my lack of fitness, both physically and mentally, was beginning to take its toll. Have you ever been running and you become overly aware of you movements in such a way that you throw off your rhythm, causing you to misstep? If not, it’s a bizarre sensation that in most situations simply results in you taking an odd step before getting back into the swing of things. In this instance I was less fortunate, and due to the arguably impractical shape and size of the boots I was wearing I went from running one moment, to sliding (somewhat)on my stomach in the next. After my initial impact on the ground, the ice seemed to calm down instantly. The loch became eerily quiet as I lay perfectly still. The numbness of my face due to the snow it was resting on felt insignificant in comparison to how cold I would be if the ice decided I was too heavy a burden, although arguably I would probably feel cold for a much shorter amount of time. I slowly lifted my face up and took a glance at the distance I still had to cover. I still had at least 200 yards to go before I made it to certain land. Part of me began to wonder where H was; had he fallen in? Then the selfish side of me kicked in and couldn’t actually care. I knew I could deal with H when I’d sorted my own crisis. My plan was simple: slowly stand up…and then run! As the plan went through my head, I couldn’t help but nod in agreement with myself before slowly beginning to stand to put it in practice. The ice didn’t agree on the successful outcome of this operation and soon began to voice its disagreement with growls and groans. I could feel each crack like a vibration. Maybe a plan B would be necessary. Looking at it from a logical standpoint, my options seemed clear: lose some weight. Of course at this stage cardio and dieting wouldn’t give me the immediate results I needed so instead I began to take off my bag. I slid it slightly away from myself which actually moved me more than it moved the bag but it separated the weight and seemed to appease the ice god that was judging me from below. I opened the top and slid my gloved hands down the side of the bag to try and grab the rope. When you’re trying not to move it becomes surprisingly difficult to pull one particular item from a stuffed bag. I knew the rope wasn’t going to cover the entire distance but at the very least it would reach shallower levels of water. I untangled it all and tied one end to the bag and one to me. My next move probably wouldn’t have been advised by, well, anyone: I began to take my boots off and used the laces to attach them to the side of the bag. I knew I could run faster and lighter without them on but it also removed the possibility of me tripping over them again. The socks The Third Eye had been kind enough to provide where warm and comfy but not much use against standing in snow without any footwear on. I stretched my arms and legs out and began to slowly raise myself up from the ground. Just as I put all my weight onto my feet, I felt that familiar vibration accompanied by the sound of the ice beginning to crack again. I took a few seconds to pause and think this time but ultimately the decision was the same as before: run! As I sprinted, I felt a lot less at risk now without the bag and the boots on. The sound of ice cracking sounded fairly distant behind me and as quickly as a foot touched the ice, it was off again. For a moment during my sprint I completely forgot that I was tied to a heavy bag and a pair of boots and realised I would have to slow down before the rope ran out. Sadly, my slowing down was not as speedy as was necessary and the rope tugged hard on my waist. This in turn caused me to put more weight on my feet and led to quite a significant crack in the ice. It was the first time I could actually see the crack through the layer of snow that covered the loch. My right foot sunk through the ice and the water grabbed at my ankles like the thin, sharp fingers of some mythical ice creature. I fell down to the ground once more but rather than lie still, I began to crawl. My knees were sinking into the ice more than I cared for but I only had a few more metres to go. I figured at this stage that falling in would not be fatal or even lethal so I decided to stand up and walk the rest. Rather comically to anyone who would have witnessed it, this marked the moment where my left foot sunk through the ice, getting drastically wetter than its companion. I could only shake my head in disbelief both at making it across and at the rather frustrating sock incident but as I sat down I couldn’t help but grin. I grabbed the rope and began to drag that bag towards land, or at least, solid land. Despite how uncomfortable my feet had felt in the boots initially, it was nothing in comparison to sliding my wet, cold and sore feet into them now. Keeping the wet socks on wasn’t wise but it would have to do until we got a shelter set up somewhere. It was at this point that I remembered that I didn’t know where H was. The wind was beginning to pick up and the thick, grey clouds were only making darkness seem to descend faster. I was going to shout on him, to search and try to find him but part of me knew that it would be a waste of time. I’m sure he was probably thinking the same way I was and had simply gone to find somewhere to set up a shelter. There was a small, woodland area near the top of the ridge in front of me so with wet feet I picked up my bag and began walking.”

 

Thank you for reading!