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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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

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

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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