That moment when all the air is sucked out of your lungs…

And you’d scream joyously if it were possible but instead you drawn in a shaky breath and let it out slowly. Your excitement then moves to the rest of your body. You do a happy dance and immediately survey your surroundings for potential witnesses you might have to explain yourself to. This is the moment when you hang up the phone after a very enticing proposal. You have agreed to an interview the following Monday. A meeting to discuss a project. You collect yourself and add the meeting to your calendar… Only to discover you are having a wisdom tooth pulled earlier that same day. Drat. Mind racing, what ever to do?! Reschedule? The appointment or the interview?

After emailing to possibly reschedule the interview, I was struck by a feeling of dread. It was Saturday and I wasn’t entirely sure that I would be able to get a hold of anyone. Although when the response came on Sunday and it seemed like rescheduling would be fine, I couldn’t help but think that it might very well ruin my chances. Monday morning, after the extraction I was feeling surprisingly well. Though I had previously convinced myself that there simply would not be time afterward to make the afternoon appointment, and subsequently hadn’t taken the time to dress for an interview, I realized that I was already on the west side and had time to make it after all. But that would mean arriving in my ripped jeans and tee shirt with little to no make-up and a gaping hole where my tooth had been. I knew I had what it takes to fill the position and I only hoped I could handle the discomfort of both my mouth and being less prepared than I would have liked. Sometimes in life you must take a bit of a risk. I called and asked if it would be possible to meet at the originally scheduled time and the answer was yes.

Fortunately, my gamble pulled off and I got offered the position! Later, after I confided in one of the employees about my embarrassment over my wardrobe, I was informed that they kind of poked fun of the guy they interviewed who had shown up in a suit and tie. So, in the end, my gamble paid off. I guess the moral is: persevere and dress the part. Exhale.

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thinking iteratively, again and again

After my initial consultation with my newest client, I was left feeling excited and bursting with fresh ideas. I took the bubble diagrams and threw them into the computer only to be utterly disappointed that there simply was not enough space. The clients idea (not drawn to scale), which looked on first inspection to be perfect, neglected to take into consideration certain important dimensions. The stairs could not be a straight run because the head clearance conflicted with a beam in the floor package of the level above. With a two flight stair, we avoid the structural beam issue but it takes a good deal of space away from either the living room or guest room and both upstairs bedrooms. And there was no way to fit a bathroom and two closets, let alone the walk-in closets that the client wanted. After several attempts to coax the plan into something that worked, I found myself perplexed. I wondered where all that energy and enthusiasm went.

Banging my head on the keyboard is only an expression of how I feel, not a constructive measure and although the outcome can at times be humorous, it is mostly just a bad idea. I reassured myself that there was no need for panic. There is always an inherent solution in there somewhere. I stepped back and prioritized my approach. The stairs just can’t be a straight run. And two is safer in case of a fall anyway, I muse. So, I decided to see what I could do with this in mind. After taking a look at both iterations of stair placement, I decided that cheating the living room space was a better idea since it affected fewer rooms overall. Either way there was no way to fit two closets and a bathroom in the space we originally wanted to. But now that the stairs took up a more compact footprint there was plenty of room to move the bathroom and create two generous walk-in closets. At this point, I got my mojo back. Until my client sent me a photo of an awesome straight run stair design he likes. Wonder if I can design something that is similar to it, in the configuration we need. I guess it’s time to send him what I got and see what he thinks.

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initial consultations are like first dates

And apparently I haven’t had enough practice with either.

Meeting at a public and neutral location because even though you don’t want to let your pessimism get the best of you, you really never know if this will go wrong and you end up needing an escape route. So a Starbucks with cameras is merely a necessary precaution. Arriving extra early and parking far enough away that there’s no way your client will see your car and judge you because you appear to live out of it. Just the usual. Feelings of excitement and anxiety threaten to win over. Stay calm.

It’s really all about how you present yourself, physically and figuratively. Figuring out what to wear- professional but not overdressed. Wondering what you should say- confident but not arrogant. Thinking about the future possibilities and trying to devise a way to make it go well without seeming like you’re trying too hard. So many things flood my mind, my smart green business dress could barely contain all the butterflies!

But I survived. It really helps to have a cool, understanding client. I have to say I have been quite fortunate in that department. But this project is special, the potential is mind-blowing. This could be the one!

Sounds just like a first date if you ask me.

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When one door closes… design your way out through another one.

Sometimes it is really hard to contain my enthusiasm. Maybe that’s because I’m generally such a skeptic that when I finally determine it’s real, I’ve already taken it through so many tests, hoping but all the while disbelieving. The other day, I got a very nice surprise in my email. A message from a potential client! Who found me by way of google… Say what? My site isn’t even really up yet! It’s just a simple temporary page. Shocked and not wanting to let my hopes be too high, I replied and it turns out to be a legit thing.

The site is in Washington State and the project is an addition. The potential client sends over some pictures and a mostly current set of scanned plans. We made an appointment to speak over the phone the next morning. After seeing the images of the design details and direction and the plans, I couldn’t help but throw together the existing house in Rhino. Spoke with the potential client on the phone the next morning. Really wish that I had gone to bed at a more decent hour but I really just couldn’t help myself. Set plans in front of me and they almost instantly become 3d models.

During the phone meeting the client tells me that the plan is to take the existing house, lift it, and place a new first floor underneath.

That seems super exciting! Pretty sure that kind of thing requires a structural engineer. But before I get too excited, I’ve got to actually meet this potential client and hash out the details.

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permanent hat hair

Lately, it seems, I have been having to wear so many different hats that I swear it feels like I will have permanent hat hair. Which isn’t a complaint really; I kind of enjoy it. It’s probably one of the best parts of the current economic climate. Since I am not doing the kind of work I’d like to be, I’ve had to break out some different hats from my collection in order to make ends meet.

One such hat is the web designer/coder’s hat. It is something I enjoy doing. I like the challenges and rewards and especially the numerous ways to solve each problem. So I guess it’s not far from the “drawing board” I’m used to. In addition to hone my eye for graphics, I feel it helps to keep my coding skills for architecture sharp as well. For me coding logic is all pretty much the same just different syntax. Like switching between AutoCAD and Rhino– still making lines and forms but with different commands. Each program/language has it’s benefits and shortcomings so a sound understanding of what each has to offer is a big plus.

A big benefit of the website coding is that all I need is a text editing app and an internet connection. I don’t even need my laptop. I’ve gotten to a point where I can work on a project just about anytime, anywhere. I have even coded in my dreams and been able to fix some issue upon waking. Crazy stuff.

This autonomy from my laptop is especially good because that brings me to another hat to discuss. Recently my replacement power chord died. Seeing as I could not afford to buy another one, that I had two broken ones at my disposal and I couldn’t really see how I could be worse off than I was (chargerless), I donned my electrical/mechanical repair technician hat. I removed the rubber foot pads and disassembled the box. I poured over it’s contents to see if there was something obviously wrong. Luckily, it was, in fact, obvious. The wires at. One of the connections were frayed and touching. After a minute of studying the situation, I decided to remove the insulating sleeves from the area which allowed me to push the “flex protector” down the cord. I removed a bit of the insulation from the chord to give me enough room to work and replaced the “flex protector.” Then, I just separated the exposed bits of the two internal wires and reconnected their frayed parts, keeping them as far away from each other as possible. A little bit of electrical tape later and I was back in business! Total repair cost of 99ยข because I couldn’t find my tape. So what if my cord is now half an inch shorter. It’s not about the length of the cord but the fact that it charges my laptop, am I right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Finished the repair with just enough time to switch hats back, put together a few finishing touches on the website before my client meeting. Meeting went well and all ‘n all, I feel pretty darned accomplished.

Now, if only I felt this good about the other hat I have to wear in order to make that bottom line. :/ The only real benefit to that hat is that I am thoroughly familiar with health code issues and I know I could lay out a commercial kitchen/restaurant if needed in the future. Oh, and the food’s good.

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when it rains it pours

I haven’t written anything in a while. It’s not out of any lack of things to write about, but rather a lack of time in which to do so.

It seems like for a long time, I was struggling because it was hard to find jobs. And while it is still hard to find the type of work I’d prefer to be doing, I have been making ends meet. One of the downsides to not working for a firm, is the lack of steady reliable income. A person in my predicament, generally, must subsidize the erratically earned architecture related funds with those gained by holding down a service related “day job.” Kind of like a fledgling actor or artist. With the turn over rate being fairly sizable, my hours have been numerous, which helps to offset the fact that the hourly rate leaves much to be desired. On the flip side, it leaves less time for moonlighting and seeking out new ventures.

That said, the need for seeking out new ventures is not really an issue. They seem to have sought me out. I was asked to take on a small kitchen remodel for a friend of my mother. Not a super exciting project but at least it is architectural in spirit. After a few weeks and several iterations, the client decided to go with one of the least exciting schemes because the contractor (whom I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting) talked her out of relocating her kitchen to a space that made more sense. Oh well, and just as we are discussing how to move forward with the project I get a message from an old coworker.

She has her own design firm now, and could use a little help. Filled out a W-9 and launched head long into an array of different projects. The work is fun. Or maybe, fulfilling is a better adjective. Diverse typologies, and a good excuse to finally use the 2012 version of autoCAD and NOT set it to classic view. And just when I’ve gotten comfortable juggling the aforementioned, I get a phone call.

It’s my second cousin, once removed. Now, for the longest time he’s told me that he will have some work for me to do once I finish up with school. Since he lives in Mission Viejo, we pretty much only talked at the reunion-esque forth of July parties my great aunt throws. With very little actual follow up. This time however, he meant business. He has convinced me to join him in some top secret endeavors. Which is great. Pay is good, projects are stimulating despite not being architectural in nature. One of the best things about my very expensive and expansive education is the broad scope of software knowledge I’ve acquired. So that’s pretty much all I’m at liberty to discuss at the moment, as NDAs are to follow.
On top of all these projects, I have an array of smaller things to work on in my “spare time.” I am currently developing a website, which I hope to launch soon. Challenging because of all the programming languages involved. Not only do I have to be fluent enough to code in them, and flexible enough to be able to switch between them, but I also have to get them to play nicely with one another. And my old roommate is doing his thesis so I will likely be recruited for that this month as well. So, all told, I am a very busy girl. But I’m not complaining. ๐Ÿ™‚

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becoming legit

While preparing my taxes, I came to the startling realization that I might need to be an established business to receive payment through a 1099. Knowing nothing about any of this may very well prove problematic. Everywhere I have turned I have found differing and confusing information about what my course of action should be. It is my hope that as I figure this out the hard way, my situation may provide some guidance to others who find themselves in similar situations.

Since my client decided not to 1099 me this investigation is more a preemptive one. None the less it certainly warrants some thorough looking into. I hope to be hired into a firm soon but if that dream goes unrealized much longer, I will be forced to organize my business strategy in a hurry.

Seeing as I am an unlicensed designer, I have to be extra careful about how I decide to proceed. I know that if I decide to work under any business name I am required to file a DBA, or doing business as, fictitious business name filing. However, if I just use D’anna Olsen, designer, I can skip this process.

If I choose to become a business, I will need to get a license in my home city and possibly any other city I work in. I will also have to file estimated quarterly taxes and pay the full social security and Medicare taxes. Seeing as I don’t work much now this seems overboard. However, I would not like to risk any fines if the government feels I am not reporting as I should, so I will likely initiate these processes before I risk accepting 1099s.

Because I am providing a service rather than a product, I am not responsible for charging sales tax, which alleviates some of the pressure.

As I get more information, I will add to this post but for now I feel I have made great headway in my research.

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