If you’ve been reading for a while, you might remember that one of my new year’s resolutions (read: goals) was to “break out of the cubicle.”
Well, I wasn’t really working in a cubicle per se, but the mindset was the same. I had a thankless job where my talents were wasted and though I knew that I could make strides to improve the business, I wasn’t allowed to “get ahead of myself.” It was incredibly frustrating to be forced to sit idly by while things fell through the cracks and to know that things weren’t running smoothly but that I wasn’t valued or even seen as an asset – rather, I was just a data entry gal and that’s all they wanted from me. It was horrible. Day in and day out.
In January I made a big leap and quit that job to pursue a part time position here in Ogden and give myself more time to chase freelance work. I posted a quick check-in back in July, half way through the year.
The resounding thought in my head all the while:
“Yes, life will be more hectic, and you may have to sacrifice…but getting off your duff can be energizing and empowering” ~Michelle Goodman, The Anti 9-5 Guide
And yes, life has been more hectic. Even converting to a part-time job, trying to juggle freelance work with a scheduled job has been tough. I find myself working at the coffee shop in the mornings before I go to “my real job.” I find myself leaving work for “lunch” only to go and send emails, contracts, and finish up projects. I find myself working. Constantly. My brain is full.
And it’s hard at times. Completely exhausting at times.
And at other times, complete magic.
A little over a week ago, I “quit” my job. I still be working for the company as an outside contractor and I’ll be training my replacement(s) – but effectively, I am now 100% freelance.
And that is the magic. Doing exactly what it is that you want to be doing, feeling so incredibly in the moment and the right one at that, feeling so utterly blessed and excited for all that’s yet to come. Magic.
Let’s go over my timeline (and for people who don’t give a rats booty about career moves feel free to leave me a nice little “congratulations” in the comments below and then move on with your day…the rest might offer insights and some what of a strategy plan for those that are interested in similar moves).
Countdown to Freelance
We moved to Utah in September of 2011 and I had a job that freaking sucked. I was lucky to get a job so quickly and for great pay, but as I’ve said many a time, my talents were wasted. So I got to thinking…
I decided that I wanted to pursue more in terms of writing and also focus on my blog as more than just a hobby, I wanted it to look professional. So I began researching how to get into writing positions, put together a portfolio (a flimsy little list of things) and started working with a web designer to polish up my blog a bit. For one, I wanted the one place that really highlights my writing to at least look nice. I spent a couple hundred bucks and got what you see today.
In May of 2012, more than six months later, I finally sent out my first query letter to a national magazine.
And funny enough, that very first query letter turned into an actual article. Only my name wasn’t on the byline and I didn’t get any credit for the concept – diddly squat. Lesson learned.
In the meantime, I began posting simple articles in response to queried article requests. Places like constant-content where you can create an author site and easily submit articles that turn around and sell quickly, typically at $50 a pop. It’s not a lot of money, or all that exciting of writing, but it was good practice in meeting deadlines and writing on requested content. Plus, I had things to add to my portfolio.
I then decided to pursue a column in the newspaper that would help legitimize the business development and management portion of the work that I wanted to be doing. Six months into that I felt that I had received quite a bit of credibility and a ton of frustration with the newspaper who had undergone about three management shifts in that time. I had received several contracted jobs through that publication though and I felt that it had been a valuable experiment.
For Christmas this last year, I requested two books: 102 Ways to Earn Money Writing 1,500 Words or Less and also The Well Fed Writer.
Both of these were extremely helpful in giving me ideas, spurring me to action and helping me feel like I had some sort of direction in a rather mysterious career field.
In addition, I have relied heavily on Writer’s Market which is shock full of tips, rate suggestions and contact info (though sometimes out of date).
In January I left my full-time and super long commute job in Salt Lake for a part-time position closer to home and where I had freedom to bring my skill set to the table and do work that was valuable.
Using the information in my Christmas books and the extra time I had now that I was working full time, I made the most of each and every Tuesday/Thursday that I was able to work from home.
10 months later, I’m making the switch to full time freelance. AND I have contracted work through at least the end of 2014, plus new business opportunities that get sent my way pretty much every single day.
Here are my top 5 tips for any one diving into freelance:
- Set a schedule of priorities. When I was first starting out with Tuesdays and Thursdays wide open, I’d often think “I really have nothing to do” but I had to set a strong intention for each day or the time would quickly slip right through my fingers. I’d set goals of how many people I wanted to email, projects I specifically wanted to pitch that day, AND a list of “larger” items that I could start breaking down into pieces. You have to wake up with purpose or the time will disappear.
- Get out of the house. One of the best “investments” I’ve made so far is the amount of time and money I’ve spent at the coffee shop. Getting to work around other people, even as I pursued my own projects has been a huge advantage. I’ve met people that I never would have else wise and I have quite a few projects in motion because of those connections. People and networking are invaluable. You cannot hole yourself up in a home office and just hope that work comes your way by accident.
- Pursue things that matter. I spent a lot of my free time creating work that didn’t exist. I dreamt up the Eat Local Challenge, the Oasis Summer Nights and a marketing program for one of the largest business associations in town – and then made those projects into feasible gigs. Not all were paying but ALL of them have led to paying work.
- Be realistic. Sometimes I’d work, work, work and it felt like nothing was happening. But then all of a sudden things would come together all at once. For most of the summer I joked that everything happened on Wednesdays. I’d get a crap load of emails committing to new projects, agreeing to bids, etc – always on a Wednesday. Which is great, for Wednesday. But the other days of the week often felt sluggish and downright depressing by comparison. Reality check is that things don’t always come together immediately and the work you do today, is seed sown for tomorrow. The effort does come back to you.
- Keep working. After completing big projects it’s really nice to take a break. Heck we spent a long weekend in Zion after I wrapped up the Eat Local Challenge and Oasis Summer Nights – and that was absolutely necessary. But with freelance especially, you can’t sit back on your successes. You have to acknowledge the pros/cons and get up to do the next thing. Always the next thing. Eyes on the horizon, indefinitely.
I’m happier than ever. And that’s my bottom line.
**I am absolutely happy to answer any questions. Feel free to leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org