I’ve been doing a lot of free freelance consulting lately, on a very unofficial level. Lots of “this idea is good, but” and “don’t call it that” and “you have no idea what you’re talking about, I’m a genius” stuff. Trying to be a diplomat and maintain gainful employment while subtly steering the ship away from the icebergs.

I feel like a lot of website owners set out with a really great, organic, altruistic goal – a stroke of genius which gets worn down to a nub by a lack of focus, endless additions to the site’s core functionality, and a forced invasion of monetization when all profits will generally come naturally if a website does what it does and does it passionately and intelligently. When Brian & I were running All Nerd Review, we spent years building up content without really concerning ourselves with turning a profit – access to a few conventions and some freebies were nice, but we created the site because most of the nerd-writings on the Internet were just poorly done – and we sought to change that.

With that genuine passion for dorkstuff and writing, we forged careers for ourselves as professional writers, teaching ourselves the ropes of online ‘journalism’ with an amazing amount of success. If other (more profitable) work didn’t take over for both of us, ANR would probably be a pretty prominent site by now – but it’s because we never tried to overcomplicate it, and we kept it true to what we knew.

A recent freelancing gig is holding my meager $50 payment hostage until I have a phone conversation with the owner. He’s a 40-something (I presume from photographs I’ve seen) shooting for a 20-something demographic, and while I can’t go into detail, he’s asking this audience to pay for things which might appeal to MTV’s version of 20-somethings – but not my own friends within that demographic. It’s a generic mess, and maybe I belong to a quirkier demographic than I’d originally thought, but pinball machines and Darth Vader helmets sound like a lot more fun than spa getaways and tailgate parties.

Here’s the thing : generic doesn’t attract an audience, even if statistically, it would make the most sense. You absolutely need to factor in the attention span which the average Internet 20-something employs. Viral is inherently quirky, and it draws enough attention to make a potential difference. We’re also regularly shown websites which promise free video game consoles, cars, vacations, and whatever else might be popular at the moment – and 95% of these things are scams. We filter them out without even allowing ourselves a flicker of hope that these things are real, because fuck, it’s the Internet. Getting around these filters that we’ve been forced to develop isn’t done with louder promises – it’s done with interesting, tangible promises.

Aside from this, I trawled through eLance today with the intention of using up all of my credits before the end of the month rolled around and I lost them. Placing indiscriminate bids on things might prove rewarding.

As far as freelance art goes, I’m participating in a show in the UK at the beginning of August to debut the Jinny toy from BitBots. I can’t really show it off yet, but I made a lumpy plush guy to house the 2″ toy, which was far tinier than I’d expected. It’s hard to customize something so tiny. I secretly call the whole thing ‘Fuckface the Fucknificent’, but for public purposes, he’s called ‘You and Your Ugly Heart’. It cost $30 freaking dollars to send to London – and I don’t even get it back.

It’s one of many recent instances of ending up in the red because of giving away artwork, and it’s a habit I need to break.