A Freelance Writer – Huh?

Today I read a post that really hit home. Jodee over at Freelance Writing Jobs, an excellent source of information for any freelance writer, wrote a great post about others people’s responses when they find out that you are a freelance writer. The thing that most people don’t get is that you are your own boss. You don’t work for anyone else.

This really struck a chord with me. I have just now begun telling people that I am a freelance writer and for the most part their reaction is:
A) Who do you work for?
B) The smile and the look that says, “aww, you have a hobby – at least you have a real full time job too”.
C) And finally, my personal favorite – A what?

Up to this point, I have had a hard time explaining what I do. Usually, I go into a long detailed explanation about how I primarily write web content with the hopes that I will eventually be doing more, I work from home, I look for clients daily, etc. The thing is, usually people just don’t get it. It has taken a long time for even some of my friends and family to get it. And still there are those close to me that think of my writing as just a hobby.

Well, as Jodee pointed out, I have a job, I work for me. I actively pursue clients, I am my own boss and I determine how much I make. In a very real way, I am starting my own business. Yes, I still have a full time job, but I am planning to leave it in a mere two months, to earn a living as a freelance writer.

It gives me great comfort to know that other people encounter this too. It is also helpful to hear how other people explain their freelance work. It’s not traditional, but that’s one of the things that I love about it. Jodee’s post has given me the confidence, and a reminder to be proud when telling people what I do and that I work for myself. Freelance writing is a valid career, and a career that I have worked and will continue to work harder at than any other job I have ever had.

Check out Jodee’s post: Who do you work for? It’s a good one!

Visualization

Now that I have made a timeline for when I will actually leave the rat race behind and try to make a career out of freelance writing, I have begun to visualize my new life – a lot. Not that I didn’t before, but because this is all so within reach and not very far away, it seems I can’t help visualizing my new life. Some may call it daydreaming but I call it visualization. I am finding this is a very relaxing tool for me right now. It helps me calm down when I get stressed out trying to keep up with my full time job and my writing, and it helps to make my full time job bearable. It actually reminds me that there is a point to all this and an end in sight.

Here is how I see my freelance writing day to day life going:

Most days I will wake up and hit the gym by 7am.
I’ll get home from the gym by 8, shower and eat breakfast.
No matter what, I will begin work by 9 everyday.
I’ll allow myself to take an hour lunch around noon and do some stuff around the house.
I hope to stop working at 4:30 or 5 everyday to start dinner.
After dinner, I may do a little work, but no more than an hour.

I know my days won’t always be like this, but that’s the great thing, I will have some flexibility. I also visualize myself having weekends again. That will be so nice! My husband and I will be able to visit his family (it has been since the holidays) and my grandpa (again it has been since the holidays), among other things we haven’t had time to do.

I am also thinking I will need to take a very, very part time job to get me out of the house a little bit. I am thinking about applying to work some Weight Watchers meetings. I know they always need people for the morning meetings and since I am a lifetime member I am allowed to apply. That might be a fun way to get out, talk to people and make some extra cash. Plus I wouldn’t have to commit to more than I want to, so even if I just worked two or three meetings a week that would only take three or four hours away from my writing time.

Sometimes when I visualize I get a little carried away, adding in things that I know I still won’t have time for and then I have to remind myself that the time I spend away from writing is time that I will not get paid for, so I try to keep my visualizations very realistic. But even the realistic view seems so great, oh I can’t wait, I just can’t wait!

Bleeding Heart

One thing about working with non-profit organizations is that you constantly come across people who have the biggest and best hearts. These are the people that would give their money or time, even if they had nothing to give. These people in my estimation are the salt of the earth.

I have worked with professional athletes that make time in their busy schedules to take a sick child on a shopping spree and pay for it with their own money. I have worked with downtown businessmen that literally spend a part of everyday raising funds. I have even worked with poor college students that spend their free time volunteering. These are the people that inspire me to be a better person, and to not always think about myself. They are also the people that will make it very hard for me to walk away from. I know I’m leaving, I have made up my mind and I know I owe it to myself to try this, but I will need to find some way to give back and stay in touch with these types of inspiring people.

Having spent my whole career raising funds in non-profit organizations, I have never been on the other end. When you work for a non-profit organization, by the end of the day you have nothing left to give. All the non-profits I have worked for operate on the bare minimum staff and achieve extraordinary success with very little resources, but being an employee, it leaves you stretched to the limit.

I have always envisioned myself as a bleeding heart and to some extent I am – choosing up to this point, lower pay for a chance to make a difference in the lives of others, but above and beyond that, I haven’t had the time or the money to give back. It is my goal to be able to give back, it’s so important; it’s what humanity is all about. I truly believe that you get what you give.

I have high hopes that my writing will make a difference and that eventually I will get to the point where my work will move people, persuade people or at the very least add something to someone’s life. But there are other ways to make a difference and that is something I never plan to lose sight of.

Countdown

It’s time to make some decisions about my timeline. In my full-time job I am an events manager for a non-profit organization. That’s right, I plan “parties” and everyone thinks I have the most fun job. But you know what? Planning events is hard work, long hours and takes a lot of patience, which I am running out of. But, back on topic.

I have a major event coming up in May and another one in August. The May event simply would not happen if I were not there (it is the largest event of the year, budgeted to raise $250,000 in one night!), so there is no way I am leaving before then. Plus wrapping up an event takes a while, so I’m thinking that the earliest I could leave is June. They will just have to replace me in time to plan the August event. As my husband said, there will always be another event coming up. And that is so true. Event planner’s schedules are dictated by the events they plan and in the non-profit sector, there is a constant need for large events to raise funds.

Here is my timeline – I will put in my notice after the May event and set my last day for the middle of June. My finances are looking good, the extra money that I am bringing in with my writing is helping a lot. By June I should have enough saved to provide a nice cushion to last me through the fall. Obviously, I hope that immediately starting out I will be able to make enough money without dipping into my savings, but I am realistic and know that, that will probably not be the case.

The problem is that with such a large event coming up and taking up so much of my time (I’m already working 50+ hours a week on it), it will be very hard for me to apply for and take on more writing jobs before June. As it has been lately, I am keeping up with the writing I have already agreed to, but have not been actively looking for more work, which as any freelance writer knows is half of the job. In leaving my job in June, I will probably not have enough work secured to make ends meet. I will just have to work harder those first few months to get more jobs. If it turns out that by the fall I am still relying on my savings account to get by, I will get a part time job to help supplement my income.

There you have it folks, June it is – let the countdown begin!

Positive Thinking

First, I want to apologize, this is longer than I like to go without a new post. I have been incredibly busy and it appears that will only get worse before it gets better, but that’s life.

I had a realization today. I have been really, really struggling in my full-time job. It’s the same stuff – too much to do and not enough time. It has left me feeling drained and down, mostly because I want to spend all of my time writing, but also because sometimes when there is too much going on it is hard to feel successful at anything.

Here’s the thing, I knew I couldn’t quit my job immediately when I took on everything that I have taken on. But I made a vow to myself to give this the best that I have and for a few more months I have to be the best that I can be at everything. I realized as I drove to work today that I can’t give them the best that I have if I am constantly thinking down about it. I have complained, I have let the stress build up, I have been angry and even started to resent the people that pay me to do a job I applied for. Well, no more.

I have made up my mind, I’m going to get through these next few months, and I’m going to do it on the power of positive thoughts. No more thinking down and no more whining about it. I will do what I said I would, and I will do it with a smile. It amazed me today that with a small change in my mind set I was able to accomplish so much in eight hours and feel less stressed when I got home.

I love where my writing career is going, and I can’t wait to pursue it full time, but for now that is not the option. I know that if I stick this craziness out a little longer the payoff will be that much greater. And I know I can do a good job at both.

If every day could be more like today, I will be okay. I will work my way through this project at work, do a good job and then leave on a good note. It’s that simple, and it’s not out of reach. It’s all about positive thinking!

Associated Content vs. eHow

notebook-pen2I’ve been thinking a lot about eHow and Associated Content (AC) lately. I am currently a member/source for both respectively. Now, mind you, I don’t have many articles on either site, I have seven on eHow and four at AC with one processing to be exact. So, I haven’t really spent a lot of time with either, preferring to go after higher paying gigs. But, I keep reading about people making a lot of residual income a month on eHow and it has gotten me thinking that I should maybe invest some more time into both of these sites.

First though, I want to compare the two to see if one is better than the other. It is obvious from reading up on both websites that eHow is by far the more popular option. So many more people have tried it and so many people are talking about it. However, in my experience, AC gives writers a little more freedom to write. There is no set guideline for writing articles, they don’t have to be in the “How to” format; which I feel gives me more freedom of topics and much more to work with when writing articles. On the other hand, you can’t just sign up for AC and get articles published. You must write three articles and get them approved before they give you the freedom to publish your articles instantly.

Now here is where it gets a little interesting. AC allows you to decide how you want to publish your articles. You can publish your article as exclusive, which means you pretty much give up all your rights to the article except your byline, you can go with non-exclusive, which means you can re-publish the article other places, but you cannot remove it from AC, or you can choose display only, which means you can take it down whenever you want and publish it elsewhere. Once you have chosen how you want to publish your article, you can also decide if you want to put it up for upfront payment review. This means that your article will be available to be purchased by AC or their partners for a flat fee AND you can still earn performance payments (which is based on the number of page views, the same as eHow).

I have been a member of eHow for over a year and I made a whopping $10 last year. This year, so far I have made $0.40, pitiful, I know, but again I haven’t put forth much effort. On AC, I have made $5.53 since January when I signed up. I know this is not much either, but it is over half of what I made on eHow in an entire year. Yes, it has helped that two of my articles have sold (for a very small amount, I know, but still it’s something), and I am making money on them for page views. Plus, I have fewer articles published on AC than eHow and my performance earnings are almost the same. Of course, we are talking about pennies at this point, but I think I may be onto something here.

The one thing I like about eHow is that it is a community. They give you many opportunities to network with other writers if you choose to take advantage of their groups and seeking out friends (which, to be honest I haven’t done yet). I haven’t seen that AC has this option, but they do give you many tips on how to market your articles, which can be very helpful. Both sites give you a profile on which you can promote your website, blogs and other work. That to me is a tossup right now.

I’m not totally convinced either way, I don’t have a lot of knowledge about either site right now, but I think it is worth my time to read up on both sites to see how to choose better topics and generate more page views. I must say that with the bare minimum knowledge, so far, AC has shown me more potential. I’ll keep you posted as I try to boost my article numbers and marketing opportunities on both sites. What experiences have you had with these sites?

Balancing Act

Trying to work full time and be a freelance writer is sort of like a balancing act. I’m slowly learning this and trying new things to get everything in balance. It is important for me right now to not let my full time work slip, and it will remain even more demanding of my time in the next few months. But, freelance writing is becoming even more important to me and getting increasingly more demanding of my time.

What I have noticed is that my schedule has forced me to be more productive at my full time job in the mornings and more productive at my freelance writing at night. However, if I come home from work and immediately sit down at the computer, I can’t concentrate. I have realized that I need some time to shift gears. My solution (and I am quite proud of this) is to hit the gym after work. It calms me down and allows me to sweat off the stress of the day. Plus, I have been meaning to start working out again.

For a few weeks, this was going great – until my husband pointed out that we barely see each other anymore because when I am home, I am holed up in my office. My solution to this was to cook together. Now, I am not a cook, or domestic at all for that matter, but we have started to make dinner together. Every night we turn off the TV, computers and cell phones, to spend quality time preparing and eating a nice dinner together. With the time change, it is light out longer and we have started to take the dogs on short walks together after dinner. I know, this is not enough, but it’s a start.

My balancing act is somewhat working right now. It might not always work, and I’ll have to readjust, but I am growing more confident in my ability to do this.

What does your balancing act look like?