Maybe that is an unfair title. I think that most of the time, I am not an idiot. But there are a few things that I am repeatedly stupid about and no matter how many identically bad experiences I have, I do the same thing over and over again.

The first thing is having too many things going on at once. It does very bad things to me, but I think it is unavoidable. To stop it, I would need to stop working and learn how to be happy being even more broke than I already am. I am lucky to have help from people and be able to live a good life, but I want to be able to contribute my fair share. Plus, I am a geek and geeking costs money.

The second thing is insanely undercharging for my work. I learn things from one time to the next and try to avoid past mistakes, but it still happens almost every time. I am working on a project now that has easily taken 10x as long as I thought it would, and I was already providing a huge discount. I love the site and I really enjoy working with the client, but I am making about $2/hr. again. It is my own fault too. I was happy to provide the discount. In a short amount of time, the site was created and most of the content entered.

The organization had wanted a lot of features but did not have the budget for them. I provided a list of things that could be done for their budget and all was good.

Right around that same time, I started working on another site for an organization of a similar size and with similar needs. This organization had found a great online solution that would do everything my client wanted for a relatively small monthly fee. I told him about it and we switched the project over to the new system. My job was to design the site, build the template, and add content from the old site.

This is where I become an idiot.

I did not charge extra for this even though the site was practically finished in the original system. Why not? Because I thought that it was my “fault” that we switched systems because I suggested it. I am pretty sure that does not make any sense.

As I look at the itemized estimate that I sent, I realize that I had completely forgotten about it. The estimate was great. Stated exactly what was included and what was not and how much it would cost for things that were not included.

Since the price was so low, template customization was not included beyond the very basics. This was reinforced under the ‘Assumptions’ part of the estimate which states that the design is not custom. Since then, I have customized several templates heavily and built the final one from scratch, including custom images. I also threw in a flash slideshow.

I am very happy with the site and so is my client. There is still more work to be done, but it is near the end. I did not charge him extra for anything. I had told him that I would let him know if something would cost extra. Somehow, it never occurred to me to do this.

I like my client and his organization and knew they were on a budget. There is a part of me that really wants the site to be as good as possible with whatever system we are using, and that part of me took over the job. I could have stayed with the first system and never even mentioned the new one. The site would have been exactly what he contracted for. I also could have suggested converting to the new system as a separate project with a new estimate. I did not do either of those things.

I am confused. At this point, I am sure that the only chance I have of working is to work for myself. I am lucky to love what I do and to be good at it, but how long will I keep working for $2/hr.? All of my clients make way more money than I do and I doubt any would consider working for that price. I don’t know what to do. Everybody I talk to has tons of “Why don’t you just…” solutions. They make it sound so easy, but it is not. If I could just… I would!

Rehab might pay for me to take a 10 week business course with a “tutor” to come with me and translate afterwards. I wonder if that will help. I can barely imagine being in a class for 3 hrs. twice a week plus time with the tutor, but I feel like I have to try if given the opportunity.

K is very busy at work too. We have 4 sets of houseguests coming in the next 4 months. More things, but it will be nice to see everyone. I hope I can get all of my work done by then. Not likely since my folks are coming on Friday. Oy. I better get back to work now.