The Freelance Life

6 Jul

(Blogger’s note: Written in September 2010, but I forgot to upload it. Update on my freelance life to come, in another post.)

The Freelance Life
Random thoughts on what it’s been like to renew my freelancing career after more than 10 years away from it:
— I have cracked open the latest AP stylebook more often — have to, because Demand Studios follows AP style (mostly). That’s why I know “freelance,” whether verb or adjective, is not hyphenated. (I think it used to be hyphenated many years ago, but further discussion of this will remind me of how old I am.)
— I have had more time for trivial matters, like reading feature and entertainment stories on MSN and elsewhere (“Pear-shaped? Might be in the genes” from today’s home page, for instance). Hey, it’s research!
— Thanks to about.com, I learned of various newsletters for freelancers that not only have writing and editing job listings, but also offer motivational advice. It’s nice to have them pop up in an otherwise sluggish gmail account. There’s even Facebook4Freelancers. So the idea of networking with other freelancers this way is quite different from 10 years ago.
— I’ve had to look at the idea of going to networking events and handing out business cards, which kind of takes me out of my comfort zone. But thanks to the many events listed in a weekly Phx networking newsletter, I can pick and choose from several options.
— I am thrilled whenever I go out to lunch with a friend.
— I work harder at actually writing (even if it’s just for the blog) when I am home alone.
— I like the quiet; occasionally, iTunes is nice.
— I like the freedom to wander to the kitchen whenever.
— My tea hardly ever gets cold, because there’s not something or someone (like a student or teacher) to divert me. And even if it does get cold, the microwave is in that kitchen that I like to wander to …
— I would be happy to have just a few projects to keep me busy. The last few weeks I’ve thought, “OK, I’ll keep going with the copy editing for Demand; it would be great to write occasionally for ParentDish; and researching family and/or restaurant stories for City’s Best would be fun and fairly involving. All that, and sending queries to magazines now and then, would keep me busy enough.”
— Problem No. 1 — Demand Studios pay so little for the time expended, thus earning it the accolade of “sweatshop” from a recent SPJ column. The reviews of my work have been by e-mail (oops! email) only, which is awkward. In fact, all dealings with Demand have been by email. Never a phone call. I don’t know what my supervisor looks like; I only found out his name with the second performance review. It’s hard to be motivated to work hard for Demand when I feel like a cog in the machine. And the stories I edit are, for the most part, of mediocre quality, poorly researched and somewhat boring.
— Problem No. 2 — Editors at magazines and online publications seem to either take their time in responding (if at all) or want to communicate with you immediately (as with AOL). The e-mail correspondence with the ParentDish editor has been weird. She seems happy to have me write an article on spec, engages me in casual e-mail conversation about the subject, makes fun of me for my not knowing what to charge, sends me the link to a blogging platform like I’m a regular contributor, takes me to task for asking if I can start blogging … Anyway, who knows if my article will run and whether I’ll get paid. As for City’s Best, I thought I had the gig after the phone interview (yeah! something akin to human contact!), but the editor has not said word one since then, even after I sent her a polite e-mail. Similar situation with the ArtScene newsletter.
(Postscript: the VAS online magazine gave me an assignment; I enjoyed writing it but it was rejected; I rewrote it but who knows if it’ll be used because the editor’s emails have been vague.)
— On the other hand, the potential markets for freelancers are phenomenal now that online publications have been added to the mix. Pay is a big unknown, but at least there are several places where I can get started with producing current clips.
— Is it that the editors are flaky or that they are inundated with queries and other e-mails from aspiring writers? I would like to think that my background captures more attention than that of a fledgling writer, but maybe not.
— I’ve said to myself that 30 hours or so a week on this thing is fine. But I’m having a hard time disciplining myself to do even that. Over the summer, I had distractions — understandable distractions, like recovering from teaching, the whole family being in the house, things to get caught up on, etc. And now that I have more time to concentrate on freelancing, I still am not attacking it like I should. (this blog — good or bad distraction?)
— I am in awe of freelancers out there who actually make a decent wage from this.
— It’s probably natural that, coming back into this after a long time away, I have forgotten how tough it is to sell articles and I am mistakenly pinning my hopes on just a few gigs. Sooner rather than later, I need to start sending out queries all over the place.
— It’s awkward to explain how I spend my days to extended family members and to friends in these post-teaching months. “I’m at my computer” could mean anything. They all should infer that my family is not penniless and is doing OK financially. I like to remind them I’m receiving a pension.
— This

A compelling diversion from work: hiking and taking photos.

WordPress blog has been kinda fun. One day I had five readers. Woo-hoo.
— The www at my disposal almost makes it child’s play when I have to research something. That’s a definite advantage over 10 years ago. And a distraction. (See point #2)
— Overall, I am my own boss, which gives me an even greater feeling of freedom than when I ruled my classroom. The boss says this blog is long enough already and to go eat a cookie.

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