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Freelance Lessons Learned: sometimes you have to say no!

30 Jun

Well, this has been a month of stress I could have done without! Everything was going well. Lots of jobs coming in. Plenty of work to do. No illness on my part, people out of the house so I had my own working space during the day, the kitten’s settled into a predictable schedule which allows me to get more work done…

And yet, here I sit, on the last day of the month, scrabbling to get two more articles done and knowing I’ve neglected two other projects this past week.

No, I haven’t taken too much on in terms of freelance work. With that, I’m sitting in a pretty comfortable place between “enough that I don’t need to be looking for more” and “giving myself some room to breathe just in case.” Particularly with creative writing classes starting up later in July, I’ve been pacing myself.

What happened this month was a) every child I knew got sick (including my husband) and I was everyone’s back-up child care due to the self-employed nature of my job. Sick kids have to stay home from other child care activities, but often they don’t know they’re sick and spend their time running around like crazy people. Not exactly a lot of time to get some writing done when you’re chasing after a jail break through the backyard waving a sweater and shoes (it’s winter in Australia, you know). Man Flu is even worse.

b) “Can you go to the shops to–” “Can you go to the bank to–” It’s a big problem when facilities are only open during business hours. It’s a huge convenience when I don’t *have* to be anywhere during business hours. Except, of course, to me! I’ve been trying very hard to work 9-5, Monday-Friday, leaving the rest of my time free. These excursions don’t help that at all.

So–sometimes you have to say “no” to the people around you. It’s not that they don’t think you’re working–it just doesn’t seem as obvious when you’re at home all the time. A gentle reminder should suffice (except when a person is afflicted with Man Flu. Then you’re facing a losing battle.)

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Ideas are not my forte.

20 May

I came across a really cool freelance opportunity and had to come here to disentangle my thoughts. Prepare yourself for a rambling post!

One article per week for two months, about anything in the world I could think of, for the Sydney Opera House. How legit does that sound?

And yet…

“All we ask is that it’s intelligent, interesting, and amounts to more than a simple review or diary-entry style of article…”

And here I sit, gazing off into the distance, wondering what theme I could write eight articles about that is also intelligent and interesting and not a review. I turned to things that I like: reading, writing, traveling. I thought about the things that I knew: kids, books, publishing, moving countries, university, Harry Potter, fantasy, history, random facts.

It’s beating in my head: one theme. eight articles. one theme. eight articles. intelligent. interesting. one theme eight articles one theme eight articles.

Nothing. I’ve got nothing. Or perhaps I have too many ideas–maybe ideas are my forte, and narrowing them down is my challenge. I think what my problem is is that I’m attempting to put too much thought into that “intelligent” aspect, but they’ve apparently had people like Richard Dawkins, Noam Chomsky, Joss Whedon, David Sedaris–so what the heck do I have to contribute?

Sigh. I’ll just be over here wallowing in a sea of self-doubt and frustration. I will find a topic. Something will come to me. Er… I hope!

(Not actually asking for ideas–I just needed to write something! But I mean, if you have ideas, I won’t say no!)

Freelance Fridays: How I Started Freelancing

10 May

As I take my first bumbling steps into the world of freelance writing, I wanted to start this “column” where I talk about my experiences with freelancing. There was so much information I wanted to know about what I was getting myself into, and while I found a lot of information, I wasn’t finding answers to the questions that I had. I’m not entirely sure that I’ll be answering questions here, either, but I figured putting information out there for anyone else who’s interested in starting up couldn’t hurt!

So, for Freelance Friday #1, I thought I’d start with the basics. How did I start freelancing?

Freelance writing never really entered my mind as something I could do. I was a novel writer, and I was going to publish books, not articles. Of course, it’s never that simple. As I got older, I realized that not everyone became an instant J.K. Rowling. Writing was still my passion, but I needed a day job to have a realistic shot at a comfortable lifestyle.

When looking for a college, I knew I had to go for something I was passionate about if I was going to be happy. Instead of majoring in something more practical like business, I decided to go into the creative writing program at Hollins University. Even then, freelance writing wasn’t really something that was discussed by professors. It was sort of like there were people in the world who did freelance writing, but as far as many people were concerned, it was off their radar. There were no discussions about how to get into it, probably because I–and many of my classmates–never thought to ask. I was a novelist, after all. I was going to write novels.

When I graduated, I knew only one thing: I was going to Australia to live with my fiance-now-husband and I had a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing (and history–the things you pick up on the way!). Now what?

What I really wanted was to go into publishing. It seemed like a logical choice, it was associated with my degree, and it involved books, which I loved. But the publishing business is extremely tough to break into–I couldn’t even manage getting an internship the year before, and that was with inside contacts! So for Australia, I thought I’d get a job in administration somewhere–I had four years of experience doing admin work in college–but it turns out the whole job market is pretty rough, especially if you’re a foreigner on a working holiday visa.

I ended up getting a job as a full-time nanny, which was a fantastic experience. But when my six months were up, the little boy started going to daycare, and I was once again searching. I thought with a bridging visa–which didn’t have any work restrictions–I would have more luck, but alas, I found myself weeding through rejection after rejection in my e-mail inbox. I just shrugged and thought, “Aside from the money, I didn’t really want to work for you, anyway.”

On a whim, I decided to look for writing jobs. A few classmates who had graduated a year or two ahead of me had started writing, and while I didn’t know the details, freelance writing came into my view for the first time. I thought, “Why not try?” and, keeping in mind that I probably wouldn’t be earning a livable wage, I sent off a few applications not expecting much. I didn’t have a portfolio other than a few personal blog posts and some college essays. I didn’t have any experience writing professionally. All I had was an eagerness to actually do something with my degree and something I was passionate about.

I found a few ads on pedestrian.tv–one for Top Shelf Magazine, which didn’t pay but would help boost my experience, and another for TodayIFoundOut.com, which asked me to quote my own price per article. I applied to both and expected rejections within a few days. What I received were acceptances.

For TodayIFoundOut, I was picked to write a trial article by picking one of three topics provided and writing an article about it. I’d be paid for the trial article whether or not I was chosen to write more–and a few weeks later, I was asked to contribute regularly. It all sort of fell into place without any kind of expectations. While I’ve kept up the workload easily enough–last month being the first month to write my quota of eight articles–I was unprepared for one of the most important things: how much should I charge for each article?

The quote-your-price thing was rough for a newcomer, because I had no idea how much I should charge for a 1000 word article, especially as I didn’t have much prior experience. I said $20, which seemed fair enough. I’d seen everything from $5 to $50 and up on other writing job sites, and I tried to take into account that these articles would require some time to research, too. However, after a few articles they upped my pay to $30/article–which makes me think I probably under-quoted! (Which, to be honest, I’d rather do at this stage than over-quote and risk not getting chosen due to unrealistic expectations!)

Having looked over more and more job ads, I think I have a better idea about how much money can be expected from different projects, but some of it’s still a mystery to me. Obviously, every project is different, but does anyone have a rule of thumb they go by for quoting prices? Your average price per word or page? Or do you do an hourly rate, which I’ve also seen? Let me know in the comments below!

So, to sum up, I’m just getting started with my first few freelancing jobs. It’s not enough to live on yet, but it is enough to cover my college loan payments every month, which is a plus! I’m lucky enough to have a husband who recently got a well-paying full-time job, so he’s able to support both of us while I attempt to pursue freelancing further. Instead of focusing on finding that “real job” I’m able to focus on something I actually enjoy–freelancing as well as writing a novel–and, hopefully, it’ll turn into something more lucrative in a few months or years.

I guess the point of this post is, if you want to write for a living, try it. I jumped in and I’ve had great experiences so far.

Are you freelancing? How did you get into it? Are you still working your day job, or are you doing well enough to make a living on writing? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Updates

10 Mar

Phew–well, this week flew by in a mess of deadlines and topic brainstorming! I’ve sent in my first articles to both of those writing jobs I was talking about in a previous post.

To clarify, I’m definitely doing one of them each week– the one where I get to pick whatever I want to write about and put it up once (or more) a week. That’s for Top Shelf Magazine, which I highly recommend for some fun reading. And to my writerly friends, I’m not sure, but they might still be taking new writers on, if you’re interested. It’s unpaid, but a great way to get your name in print and something to put on your resume. I know a lot of you would be writing for fun anyway–why not get it published?

The second was for Today I Found Out, the site with articles about random facts. I was presented with three different options to write about. I started off writing about how blackboard chalk isn’t actually chalk, but couldn’t find enough information about it to write a nearly 1000 word article (yes, okay, chalk is gypsum–but when did it switch to gypsum? Why? Couldn’t find answers to my burning questions.) The one I ended up writing about was on Vasili Blokhin, the man who killed over 7000 people in 28 days, one at a time, becoming the world’s most prolific executioner. Interesting stuff. I’ll link you if it gets put up on the site.

With that job, I sent in a few writing samples and was put on a short list. The people on the short list were all sent a few topics (not sure if we had he same ones or not) and they’ll pick 1-3 people to write regularly for them based on those articles. Fingers crossed mine was better than the majority, but to avoid disappointment I’m not holding my breath–even if this would be a really cool opportunity!

It felt SO good to be able to put up some deadlines on the calendar. I’m submitting Mondays for Top Shelf, so my Mondays this month all have “TS article due!” on them. Ahh, at last–a schedule of sorts!

I’ve also told TIFO that I can write two articles each week. Might submit to them and TS more often than that if I don’t get a real job soon. Something to fill my days, right?

Meanwhile, I’ve been neglecting this blog. No worries, I’m just going to finish reading “Enchanted Glass” by Diana Wynne Jones and also attempt to get rid of this ick-feeling I’ve been having so I can get out and DO something. So–stay tuned.

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