Hit Me with Your Best Shot: What do I REALLY need to know about going freelance?

The Good Old Days, When Men Were Men, and All Poignards were Poisoned

Can I claim this on my taxes as part of my freelancer's arsenal?!

Ah, the free-lances, the condottieres of yore; stirrups swinging, jangling in time with the slender purse tied to the mercenary’s belt, before he went with his regiment to attack, defend, march, lay seige…

And the Modern Age, with Its Own Regiment of Free-lances

Of which I am becoming. That’s ok; I’m all right with the blood and the horror, the politics, the piles of the dead left behind me, the smouldering remains of once viable villlages…

Oh, WAIT. Writing, not war! Freelancing writing, editing, copyediting and research. That’s what I want advice on.

What do I REALLY need to know about going freelance?

I’ve been reading and researching a lot, but I’d like to pick the brains of people who have done it, are doing it, love it, hate it, have a love/hate relationship with it (I don’t judge!).

I’m looking to focus on writing, editing, copyediting and proofreading. Some research and an occasional project organization assignment.

I’m based in the Midwest,  and I definitely want to stay here.

So. Freelancers, or freelancers you know in the writing, editing/copy editing, proofing, research, organization fields…

Hit Me With Your Best Shot!

What’s the piece of useful knowledge you wish you’d known when you were starting out? I’d be forever grateful.

(I’ll be happy to respond to questions, as well.)

Grazie!

(Feel free to forward this to anyone who might have a glimmer of insight.)

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Spring Break…ing Into Business*

* Oh, God, that was horrible, but I had to go with that title. It was almost a pathological need.

Spring Break, Part II…

is what this should more accurately and prosaically have been titled, but I have been actually, incredibly busy.

Monday and Tuesday, I have been working with my first two clients, and also trying to clean up my house and yard. Have no fear, I have most definitely not been getting up before 8am, and I am doing crazily luxurious things like painting my nails and reading magazines.

by Dmitry Sunagatov

I wish my feet looked this cute right now.

Fake It Til You Make It

But I have been doing a great deal of research on the freelancing — taxes, bookkeeping, tracking time, webpage development, buying and hosting a domain and website…I’m still learning about that; it’s a different process and I am a total noob about it.

My desk is not like this; I think I would kill myself.

So there’s definitely a lot of information I am getting as I am going. On things like SEO optimization, and some things involving buying your own IP address, I don’t know. And something I have to ask about…FTP. I knew I wrote that down a legal pad somewhere!

So you see, it’s all sexy, sexy stuff.

Legal Pad Lust

I went to Target to get a prescription, but the pharmacy was closed, and I came back with milk and legal pads. My husband poked through the bag and was all “Legal pads?”

I love the smell of legal pad in the morning...

I keep a little notepad in my purse I write everything in, I use OneNotes, and Google Calendar. But I have to have pen and paper to brainstorm properly. I like a good legal pad for note-taking; I need some space to spread my thoughts about. I can pare it down later into lists and tasks and stuff, but I have to have a legal pad to get it all out.

The trick is keeping only one legal pad going at a time. Seriously, otherwise, it will be legal pad mayhem. Notes on every damn thing, in two or three legal pads; that’s a steep step down the road to crazyville.

I Am a Domainatrix

Exactly like this! But with computers! And, um, pajamas?

I also bought a domain name and a hosting plan today, which is geekily utterly exciting. I am working on two jobs for clients, and then, obviously, teaching  the last month of school, but I am hoping to have the website and the full-fledged business go live in June. Until then, it’s a secret!

Busting a Move

I’ve been really busy, and the weather has been chilly, grey and damp. This hasn’t been all bad; I’ve been able to be happy inside, writing. I’ve done a bunch of errands and I’ve cleaned (a couple of things.)

But I haven’t had much downtime, and making sure you are actually relaxing is important.

I think tomorrow will be a good day for that; I’m visiting my family for the evening. But I would like the weather to be warmer so I can work outside in the yarden. . . you know, more yard than garden.

And since I’ve began and ended with a truly stank play on words, I will leave it at that.

Passion, Profit, and Proactivity

It’s  2011, and I’ve been teaching since November at a public high school, hence the egregious inactivity here. I’d been pulling 80+ hour weeks, working from 7 am to at least 4 pm at school, coming home and promptly secluding myself upstairs to work on lessons and grading until about 10 or so, taking about 20 minutes to eat something completely uninspired.

Anyone who’s been exposed to a media outlet at all in the last several months has information on the situation in Wisconsin. It  has really put a spotlight on teachers, and whether or not they are slacking leeches sucking at the teat of government and churning out masses of undereducated Twitter addicts, or selfless unsung heroes, nobly fighting the good fight and battling tooth-and-nail to combat the pernicious maxim  “those who can’t, teach,” by working their asses off to do their best to educate in their content area.

I’m not going to elaborate on this debate, I’m afraid (although I believe that the state of education is deeply damaged and in critical condition in America, and many, many teachers are truly putting heart, soul, creativity and financial stability on the line every day to try and work against this trend.)

Instead, I want to contemplate some of the things I’ve learned about myself from not only this current teaching post, but also my past teaching positions, in order to organize my thoughts more cohesively into a plan for the future.

My deep narcissism, let me show you it? Well, perhaps. But then again, if you do not examine what has gone wrong and what has gone right in your professional life, if you don’t consider both the aspects of work that have kept you in a flow state until the dark hours of the night and the aspects that turned those hours into mud made from despair and tears, how can you make a conscious decision about where the path could lead? A path that has the potential to make you fulfilled and happy?

So.

My teaching job ends on June 3rd, and I get paychecks until the end of July. This gives me the almost unimaginable luxury of three months (granted, I’ll be working full-time for two of them) to contemplate and work towards what will best suit me and what will make me happy, inspired and financially stable.

What I Enjoy:

  • Books. Oh, most of all, books. The YA, the classic literature, the modern classics, genre fiction — any book that propels me into a well-told story, which introduces me to compelling characters,  or makes me read a sentence or a paragraph again for the sheer lyricism or humor of the writing — this is my ultimate passion. I spend time and money reading, writing about, thinking about and talking about books, poetry and language.
  • Writing. Not the soulless matching of standards to a template that is never read, and filed away to satisfy a checklist for accreditation, but creating vibrant, collaborative lectures, creative assignments and using new technology to help students relate on a creative, humanistic and relevant level to the books examined in English classes.

I’m not going to go into the things that take away from teaching, but suffice it to say that after doing a lot of thinking about the field and my own strengths and limitations, I’ve decided that full-time teaching is not meeting my cost-benefit ratio; that is, the pleasure and fulfillment I am getting from it are unbalanced with the stresses and pains. It’s something that’s not really going to change, unless the education system morphs to fit my needs. And even I am not narcissistic or idealistic enough to expect that.

So what else am I good at? What do I spend my time on, even when I’m not making any kind of profit from it, except pleasure?

  • Writing. I’m a good writer, especially non-fiction writing, and I’m a fairly quick writer. I’ve been getting freelance jobs here and there, and it’s working out better than I expected.
  • Organizing. If you believe in astrology, and I do (on alternate Tuesdays and days when I have consumed more than three tequila-based drink,) I’m a consummate Virgo. I can organize about anything, from paperwork to parties to people.
  • Editing. I’m good at editing on a sentence level, and also, since I’m a ridiculously fast reader, I’m also good at reading other people’s writing, fiction, non-fiction or academic writing, and clarifying, suggesting and tightening. I am very good, and could become a pro.
  • I’m very logical, and give very good advice.
  • My house may not quite reflect it the way I want to quite yet, but I love decorating. Not shmancy post-post-deconstructed modernist school of Bauhahooeycakes, but real-people decor.
  • Beauty. I was a make-up artist for a while in grad school, and am pretty knowledgeable about skin care and cosmetics.
  • Research. I am widely read, know a little about a lot, and a lot about quite a bit, and am able to call upon a pretty far-flung and eclectic range of experts, in addition to Google-fu and more academic and esoteric researching skills.

I’ve landed a consulting position with an educational company writing this spring, and have a connection to a freelancing gig that’s monthly, when I finally have time to do ANYTHING that’s not directly related to my teacher position. In the past months, I have barely been able to talk to my husband, much less keep up with my friends, family, house or other interests…and it’s frickin’ KILLING me.

I am going to try to establish myself as an independent contractor, and try to become a full-time consultant focusing on writing-based areas — educational, essays and blog-based writing, editing and research for writers. I will have time in June and July to really come up with a workable, realistic plan, expand my portfolio,  network and perhaps gain a mentor.  I have no intentions of remaining home if I’m not bringing in enough income in the first months of consultancy, but I won’t be teaching if I don’t. Life’s too short to spend 80 hours a week doing stuff that’s only 15% fulfilling, and I can get a part-time job that I don’t have to drag home with me to fill in any money gaps.

Pride and exasperation have held me back from really thinking about this change– I am really GOOD at teaching, when I’m on. But I’m not “on” all the time, and so many things about it I just plain don’t like to do. I also spent a lot of money training to be certified. And there’s the pride thang — that I have all these degrees and I should say to someone “Oh, I’m working at Macy’s/as an admin assistant/as a sheep shearer…” or whatever I’d be doing if I need to pay the bills, and Buddha forbid, they should sneer at me and think I’m not smart?!

I’m toying with the radical notion that I don’t have to fit myself and my skills and yes, my pretty damned impressive smarts, into some pigeonhole so that someone about whom I don’t care won’t sneer at me at cocktail parties I don’t even go to.

It might be dangerous. It might be crazy. It might be a hell of a lot of hard work establishing myself.

But it also might work out just fine.

I’ll never know if I don’t try. And I’ve already got one foot on the path — might as well walk up the mountain. I’ll carry a map, watch my water levels, monitor the skies for storms. And the view? It could be beautiful.

Time To Get Out Of The Pajama Pants…

I AM a happy owl today!

Today was a busy day, and some good things happened. I feel like all the frantic job hunting is starting to — maybe — pay off a little bit. I don’t want to jinx myself though, so I’m not going to get too specific, yet.

I got called in for an interview at a place I interviewed at before, about a month ago. Not a second interview, but they had two other positions open up that I am qualified for, so I sent an email off. I don’t know which position they are interviewing me for, and honestly, it’s all of a kind to me. I’d be fine being offered either position.

I was also referred to an editor at a freelance company (yeah, that sounds like a contradiction in terms, but that’s what part of the company is, anyway) by a friend. The editor liked my resume and started the process of signing me up, so I should have some pretty decent freelance writing and editing gigs coming down the pike shortly, which is wonderful. More

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