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.)

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.

I Sometimes Go Gentle Unto That Good Day

I didn’t get to sleep till after midnight, because of some issues that, of course, didn’t happen until almost nine 9 pm, and then the requisite serious discussion. Said discussion was fine, of course, but the resulting need of “I have to DO SOMETHING NOW – SOLVE, PLAN, FIX”  kept my brain percolating and my fingers moving on the keyboard, plowing through  information on the net germane to the topic at hand until about midnight.

This, of course, lead me to not settling down mentally, but I went to bed finally and read a magazine for a bit, and dropped off without even finishing it. This is rare for me. I’m a magazine finisher, but once I got down in bed and read some articles on decorating and how to spring clean quickly, I relaxed pretty well and switched off both my brain and the light.

I remembered to set the alarm for 6 am.  I usually set three alarms — I use my cell, my husband uses the alarm clock, and it works out great for us —  for 5:45, 5:55 and 6 am (believe me, I need them all), so with just the one going, I rolled out of bed with no more problems than usual on a Monday, but my morning routine felt a bit rushed. I got to work about 5 minutes late, but I’ve only gotten there late twice in 5 months (5 minutes! Quelle horreur! I am such a Virgo!) and was not too concerned.

It’s funny; I have truly incapacitating chronic insomnia, but even though I absolutely despise getting up early, this teaching gig has been the best experience I have ever had in regards to getting up on time, and actually not jumping from bed to bathroom to door in 15 minutes or less. I’ve certainly gotten up and been so dragged out from insomnia or some kind of depressive malaise that I’ve called in around 7 am, but I’m actually tons better.

I get up at 6, stumble down and make my one much- beloved and strong cup of cafe au lait, read Questionable Content and Girls With Slingshots, and check email. I sip coffee, let the curling iron heat up and smoke a cigarette while seeing what’s happened in my inbox and the world overnight.

At 6:30 (6:35 if I’m really slacking) I head to the bathroom to make myself not objectionable to the world-at-large, and generally am out the door, remainder of my coffee in hand,  at 6:45. My commute is about 8 minutes, and I like hitting the red lights — that means I can smoke half a precious second cigarette before walking into the school.

We’re supposed to be there at 7am, and classes start at 7:30am, so I get there on time, and have time to start the computer, print off anything I need for 1st hour, and get my classroom prepped for the first class.

My last teaching job, school started at 7:50 and we were supposed to be there at 7:30. I only had a ten minute commute, but I woke up at about 7:05 every morning and rushed around like a stoned cat with its tail on fire, throwing on something and rushing to the coffee shop across the street to pick up a black coffee, chafing at the idiots du jour who stood there blabbing in their faux Louboutins:

Um, so I need, I think, like, a soy no-sugar vanilla extra-hot organic ONLY latte…or do I want a non-fat mocha — god the calories! but I deserve a splurge, I totally worked out so hard at in my Yogilates class last night!

Of course, if I had woken up earlier, the dingbat of the day wouldn’t have had me muttering profane imprecations so often, but seriously: it’s a damned coffee, and there are 4 people standing behind you and the barista’s eyes are  glazed over and she already has my coffee poured, and I am inching closer to stepping on your foot (“Oh, gosh, I am SO SORRY!  am just SO LATE!”)  Get outta my way!

I think having a husband who wakes up at or usually before 5 am really helps. (I know: WHAT IS UP WITH THAT?!)  I’ve woken up a few times when he does, just can’t get asleep past the alarm, but usually, his alarm doesn’t even impinge on my (un)consciousness.But for some reason, I can roll out of bed now. Maybe knowing that once I hit off  that 6 am alarm, there’s nothing more going off in another 5 minutes helps.

My dad, for 40 years, would wake at 4:30 am and drink coffee and smoke (when he smoked, before his heart attack — yes, I KNOW I need to quit, now shut it) before heading for his telephone lineman job at 7. Pre-1985 or so, he would read a book or look at the paper, and after we finally convinced him we NEEDED a computer, he would tool away at a computer game, first on a Commodore 64, then playing Civilization on the desktop PC. I never understood why he sacrificed sweet, sweet slumber for getting up and doing not much for a couple of hours.  He’s 71 now, and drinks strong Earl Grey or Scottish Breakfast tea now, doesn’t smoke and sleeps in to the shockingly lazy hour of 7 am, but he still sits in front of his computer, plays World of Warcraft, lets the dog out, and lets the day in.

I get it now.

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.

Episode 4 of “The Walking Dead”

Highlights of Episode 4 of \”The Walking Dead\” from AMC website

Lil' Redneck Emotes!!

Tonight’s episode is named “Vatos.” In case you don’t know, it’s like calling the episode “Dude” in Spanish. It suggests that there will be some Latino gangsta zombie action, which is awesome.

“Que paso, vato?” “CHOMP.”

Sidenote: while using Babelfish to try to get the right accent marks and punctuation for the Spanish (sue me, I’m lazy), it told me that the English translation for “Que pasa, vato?” is “That it happens, I beat?” It actually means “What’s up, dude?” roughly. DO NOT TRUST BABELFISH, especially when it comes to colloquialisms.

The episode starts in a gorgeous quarry and the two blonde sisters are in a boat, fishing. There’s some babble about what kind of knots their dad taught each respective sister. Apparently, they’re about 12 years apart in age, so the older sister, Andrea, was taught Very Serious Fishing, because when she and dad were fishing, it was to put food on the table (much like the sisters are doing now), whereas Amy was taught some other fishing. I don’t know fishing; it didn’t mean much to me, except there’s sisterly bonding, and some quiet weepiness about Mom and Dad, who are elsewhere and presumably zombie chum. “No crying in th boat.”  “Dad always said it scares the fish.” Sniff.

Cut to Old dude on Winnebago, whose name apparently is Dale. He’s watching some male member of the camp up on the ridge, chopping the hell out of the ground. He’s digging the hell out of some graves. Did someone die, I wonder? Ed, the archetypical woman-hating he-man that Shane beat the hell out of last episode? You can see what’s supposed to be Atlanta in the background. Huh. They’re a lot closer to the city than I thought they were.

Aaaand, we’re back in ATL, on the roof of the building Merle was chained to. Mmm. Handsaw blood. I mean, hacksaw and blood. And a hand. Merle’s hand. More

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

Qualified Professional Midwestern Woman Discovers Startling News: “The economy is terrible for job-seekers”

This will be my Christmas card picture...

I’ve been meaning to update every day, and I almost did it yesterday…but I am glad that I didn’t.

You see, I was having an awful time trying to get to sleep last night. I dutifully stepped away from the glowing screen at 1:15 am (although there were about a thousand “just1morething’s” I wanted to do — among them, writing a post) and crawled into bed, next to my blissfully sleeping husband and opened a book. I read for a while, and turned on the humidifier, trying to battle the persistent cough that’s been plaguing my sleep for the last week or two since my awful cold, and turned off the light.

D. is a human furnace. My toes and fingers were warm within five minutes. But my brain was, as usual, doing its nightly rat-in-a-cage routine, and I proceeded to flip and flop, and fulminate.

The day began not as I planned, and that threw me off for the rest of the day. I’d planned on waking at 10:30 so I could send out a few resumes before I went to babysit for a few hours for a friend. (Listen, waking up at 10:30 sounds blissful, but I would trade it in a hot second for a steady paycheck. I have chronic insomnia and it’s deeply exacerbated by not having had a teaching gig since June, or a full-time job since October 2009. And no, I don’t collect unemployment. I bloody wish. I force myself into bed most nights at 2 pm, when I am without my prescribed sleep medications, where, if Thanatos is happy, I fall into a weedy, interrupted sleep at about 4 or 5 am.) I must have slapped the alarm into submission, because I stretched and looked at the clock.

“Oh, good,” thinks me. “It’s 10:07!” Then I rub my eyes and focus, and it’s 12:37 and my friend is supposed to pick me up at 1. FUCK.  Coffee is clearly the first priority; I make a cup and hope I have time to slurp it down. I allow myself  ONE precious cup of strong cappuccino per day (D. thinks the flat-screen we got for our wedding the coolest by-product of our nuptials; while it is clearly awesome, I vote for the cappuccino machine. More

Episode #3 of “The Walking Dead”

Episode 3, “Tell It To the Frogs”

We find a sunburned Merle still shackled up top of the department store in the ATL where Rick & co. left his white supremacist behind last episode. He’s mumbling, and getting one hell of a crispy-looking sunburn, and eventually he starts begging the tiny baby Jesus for something — mercy presumably. The “geeks” are trying like holy heck to make it through the door to the roof, that T-Dog managed to chain shut before fleeing, but they don’t. Merle recants his begging — we’re not privy to baby Jesus’ take on the matter — and starts to swing his belt with the heavy buckle towards the scatter of tool placed jes‘ a little out of his reach.

Then we cut to that shiny red car, still shrieking an alarm, speeding along some highways, till it hits the camp. People are hollering at Glenn to turn that damn zombie dinner bell off, but he’s so enthralled with the car…and besides, he doesn’t know how.  Someone finally does, and that’s when we get the big emotional pay-off for the episode — Rick gets out of the van and sees, of course, his son, Carl and wife Lori. Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick, pulls off a realistic and emotional reunion with his wife and son, who have had no idea that Rick was alive. (If you recall, Lori and Rick’s BFF and partner, Shane, has been knockin’ boots for a while. Since Zompacalypse for sure, but it’s uncertain to this viewer if there’s been infidelity going on before that.) Carl is just tearfully glad to see his daddy; Lori is stunned, but seems genuinely happy, especially seeing as the audience knows from the first episode that there’s been significant tension in their marriage.

Camera pans over to Shane from the clump o’ reunion joy, and he’s managing to manfully smile and look sad at the same time. Awww. More

I have a sick headache…

I’ve spent the last two days working on creating this blog, and integrating various other internet presence. The last two hours have been hijacked by a trip to the grocery store for favorite “budget friendly” (read: we are broke-ass broke) items like Swanson’s pot pies, potatoes and mac&cheese.

While dining on a gourmet meal of queso and chips, I started to tool around various freelancing sites, and wow!  I guess some people have plenty of advertisers, because I didn’t know where my eyes were supposed to go — the left one was drawn to the right bottom of the page where a box boasted about a flash fiction contest it only took $10 to enter, and my right eye was bouncing between two sidebars promising all the secrets of writing a successful children’s books and how to give up your day job and become an international freelancer.

Information overload. It’s endemic to the internet, of course, and not just in the wild and wooly world of freelance writing and all its tributaries.

I have managed to cram down the queso and chips, took two Tylenol against the headache, and have a couple of possibilities to explore.

My primary queries/goals right now:

1. With all of the demand for writers of articles on the internet right now, how does one separate the dross out; i.e., the ones who garner .07 cents per article per month?

2. Writing samples — What exactly are most places looking for? I have tons of high-quality academic writing to hand, but I’m not sure if a 10 page essay on tropes in adolescent literature is exactly what is meant.

3. I need to find some sensible, practical sites or blogs written by someone who seems to have experience who wants to share it.

If anyone has some tips or input, please feel free to enlighten me.

 

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