The Struggling Writer

The chronicles of a freelance writer as he tries to make a living.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Freelance career development

My name is Andy Humphrey and I'm a WAHU (work at home uncle).

As I've mentioned before, a large part of my motivation for working freelance is my niece. She has special needs (hydrocephalus, vision and hearing impairment, global developmental delays) and the flexibility of freelance work lets me help take care of her. I love her like she was my own daughter, but she is definitely a high-maintenance girl. I don't even try to get anything done on the days I have her, and by the end of the day I'm exhausted.

She's been on vacation the last few days and I've been getting a lot done, which is great. And I hope I can keep this going when she comes back, but I'm sure things will slip. The thing is that it's hard to write when I'm tired and can't concentrate. Then I don't get things done, get stressed (which makes it even harder to focus), don't sleep (I've been sleeping really well now that I'm working), get more tired, and get even less done. It's frustrating.

I suppose that's one of the things that separates professionals from hobbyists: writing when you don't feel like it.

I saw that Love To Know is looking for writer/editors for their business section. Editors are expected to add 10-20 articles a month. Can I do it? Sure. Probably. Maybe.

OK, yes I can do it. But it's likely to mean that I will sometimes be writing about things that bore me (another skill to learn as a professional writer). And it's scary to suddenly have commitments rather than just write when I feel like it. And that's part of the evolution of my career which is a good thing (I keep reminding myself). As part of my application I had to include two sample articles, but I don't have any business articles at this point. I think they were interested in the quality of writing so non-business articles would have been fine, but relevant clips are always better. So I sat down and popped out two business articles over the course of the morning. Whether or not I get that job, I'm pleased that I was able to crank out two articles on demand. I proved something to myself even if no one else cares :)

My niece starts preschool next fall and will need fewer caregivers at that time. At that point, I could get *gulp* a real job if I had to. But I don't want to. I dread the idea of going back to the wage slave life. But if I'm not making a living by then (or at least making a HECK of a lot more money than I am now) then I'm going to have to make some significant changes. The good news is that I will make more money from writing this month than I did last month. The bad news is that I will make more money from watching my sister's cat than I will from writing this month.

I've seen a lot of freelancers talk about re-evaluating their careers in light of one author's $125k Challenge. It's easy to get stuck in something safe. In any job you have to be constantly evaluating how you are going to advance your career, but that is even more important when you are self-employed. Writing for HowToDoThings isn't going to make me a million dollars. I'm getting valuable experience in the business and realities of writing, but if that's all I'm doing a year from now, then I'm just kidding myself. So I do my little jobs now, but always with an eye on career development.

Two other quick notes before I sign off. With my renewed interest in writing for trades, one of the projects I plan to do today is make a list of experts. Starting with friends and relatives, then extending out to acquaintances and friends-of-friends, it would be good to have a list of potential interview subjects. This may even inspire a few ideas.

Also, I've finally got around to reading "Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer" by Jenna Glatzer. I bought this to show my support during Absolute Write's troubles a few months back and it's been sitting in my to-do pile since then. It's great! I'm getting a lot of good information from it and I highly recommend it.


  • At 8:55 PM, Blogger Brony said…

    I'm sorry about your struggles. It is never easu to balance life's demands, but if you are passionate about something you can make it happen.

    Writing is writing. Give them the samples you have and hope for the best. A great way to get some experience is to do some volunteer writing for non-profits.

    Just checking out the people on the absolute write blogroll.

  • At 9:17 AM, Blogger Andy said…

    Thanks, Brony. I agree with you about being passionate. I know I can make this work if I take it seriously. That seems to be one mistake beginning writers make - they start out testing the waters but never push past the playing stage.


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