The Freelance Life – A Year Later

28 Jul

Am I really still plugging away at freelance writing? Well, I’ve kinda got to, since there are no job prospects in sight. I like it fine, but I’ve come to the realization that big breaks (magazine pieces, for instance) will be slow in coming. And there’s no way I can make a living off this; I continue to admire the folks that do.

Maybe it’s because my butt seems quite comfortably planted here in front of my trusty Mac, at my old teak desk, on my old cushiony chair. But I’m less uptight about job-hunting because I have enough to keep me busy at least three days a week, and working part time is just fine.

Current gigs: VAS, EmpowHer and about.com/phoenix. None of them pays great, but the work is steady and the paychecks are reliable.

Sometimes I get paranoid about the art writing, my most prestigious gig — will my secret be revealed? I am neither an artist nor an art critic, just a museum-goer. I like the challenge, for sure.

I have to look for excuses to leave my desk and the house, which makes the art reviews important to hang onto, for the sake of getting out to the galleries.

There are small bumps in the road here and there: cranky editors, poor copy editing, miscommunications. Alas, they are nothing like the stress-makers of my previous job.

I often spend too long on articles, then my metacognition kicks in and I look at the time; I hurry to finish and think, “Oh, that’s my $30 worth.” Even if it’s not my best effort.

The writing machine seems less rusty as the months go by. I’ve learned to adjust my writing style to what’s appropriate to each client. I like the advice from one of the freelancers’ newsletters I receive: to write well and write often. So there’s something that I tap-tap out every day, even if it’s something small for the blog.

The past several months have included lots of burst bubbles — StudySync, State 8 Publishing, ParentDish. There have been disappointments with article-generating websites that could be more impolitely termed as content mills — Constant Content and Demand Media — but I’m glad I tried them. No harm, no foul, and a few hundred dollars that I didn’t have to sweat over.

CC is sometimes a joke — articles are requested on such topics as medical marijuana, gaming, superficial health and diet stories, destination stories — the silliness is compounded by the fact that most of the requestors offer $10 to $30 per article with word range of up to 500 to 800 words. I thought I’d get a few bucks out of a Phx destination article that was easy to write, even corresponded with the requestor; but he never bit — so either I didn’t write the article fast enough or it was “too good,” or the guy is a jerk. There must be a desperate competition for these writing assignments — from around the world. A content request for today says, “Please write in U.S. English.” But my attitude about CC when I first joined it was good — I’d get back into the writing routine, choose topics that were easy for me, not get tied up in research or interviews, and just see where it led. Now I think I’ll just give it another month or two then withdraw my membership.

I’m stewing over applying to write longer features for Demand because they pay “up to $350” — whatever that means. And there’s probably strong competition for those features.

The copy editing thing was OK for a while, but when I neglected my “work desk” I got locked out of it. Harumph. Also, I didn’t appreciate the snippy note from the copy desk supervisor.

I think most of all, with this freelance thing, I’m learning not to take myself too seriously. Today was a good day, for instance. Why? I got to use the word “tableaux” in a VAS review, and I got to insert “diarrhea” once again in an EmpowHer piece.

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