I had not realized it until my good friend KC brought it up last week: “You’ve been working freelance for more than six months!” she exclaimed. “You’re now a regular! What do you get?”
(Over here, a new employee is usually given a probation period of six months, before she is “regularized,” as we call it. Regularization has its perks: a possible increase, health benefits, allowances, etc. )
Wow, it’s been six months. How time flies. It hasn’t been easy–I think nothing is really easy when you’re starting independently. Things can be unpredictable, and you simply have to be ready for the next surprise. Looking back at the last six months, here are six lessons that have stayed with me:
- Be brave. One needs courage to stick around. An old college classmate was amazed when I told her I was consulting and doing freelance writing and editing work, “That’s very brave!” I smiled. I didn’t tell her it took years of building up my freelance portfolio before I knew I could make it independently.
- Trust. There’s a kind of security that comes with being an employee, and that’s knowing that at the end of the month, you’ll be paid–unless your employer goes under. In my case, there’s no one else to pin my hopes on, except God. I admit there are months when I feel doubtful that I’ll last till the next, but God has always delivered. I am amazed that whenever a bill comes up, there’s always money coming in from a client. I can say now that God is really my partner in all this.
- Save. I wasn’t a big saver when I was an office worker, because I knew that at a certain date every month, my employer would pay me. Today, I’ve learned to always set aside a portion of my freelance income in bank accounts that I don’t touch. It’s not a lot, but it’s growing, and I feel mighty proud of myself that I’m learning how to save now. I hope, by the end of the year, it can actually finance a big trip. Who knows? As lesson #4 goes . . .
- Be open to possibilities. Would you believe me if I told you I’m earning more now than what I used to back when I was a full-time employee? Yes (and I say this without bragging), and I don’t even work 8 hours a day. I didn’t think that was possible until I actually sat down and counted how much money was coming in (yes, I do my books now, although I have an accountant who does all my taxes) and monitored the hours I worked. It’s true, I often work six days a week, but I don’t work all day. I try to get a whole day off when I can, and still be able to go to my yoga class at least three times a week, but when it gets too busy, I’d be happy to work an entire day.
- Don’t sell yourself short. I’ve learned that it’s okay to say no to prospective clients who balk at my asking price. But I’ve also learned to meet halfway and found ways to cut corners. Because I worked hard with every job that came my way, some clients have realized that I am worth every cent I ask for.
- I’d do something for a penny if I really loved it. That said, I’ve accepted writing jobs that paid less than what I’d usually make, only because I loved the work and it helped me improve as a writer.
With six months of freelance work behind me, I’m a grateful child. I still don’t know where I’ll be six months from now (come back in March 2013, and I’ll tell you), but I have a lot of trust in my partner up there.
If you’re an independent professional like me, I’d love to hear some of your freelance lessons. Please do share! (Or e-mail privately.)
Image credit: “Kite Bird” by Debbiewaum
I’m starting a regular post in this blog and I’m calling it “Featured Freelancer.” For many of us who are new to this work-from-home thing, freelancing can be lonely, so I’m always on the lookout for kindred spirits like me, freelance editors and writers who are dealing with the same issues that I face every day. If you’re an independent professional like me, I hope reading the stories of other freelancers makes you feel less lonely.
My first featured freelancer, Ariel Price, has been working independently for almost a year. A freelance editor who works from home, she specializes in editing fiction, Christian fiction and nonfiction.
Ariel started working independently after she interned for two freelance editors. “I really enjoyed the freedom I had and the thought of being able to accept a broader range of clients,” she shared.
While it has been less than a year, Ariel has no regrets. “Like any business, it takes a lot of consistent work, but I’m in this for the long haul,” she said.
Ariel shares three things she loves about working as a freelance editor:
- Collaborating with talented authors and editors. “Working with creative, bright people makes my job so much fun!”
- Being your own boss. “I don’t have a problem with procrastination; I am a self-motivator and enjoy the discipline it takes to get up every day, dress professionally, and get to work.”
- Exploring uncharted territory, within limits. “I love that through freelance editing, I have the freedom to be flexible so I can meet the needs of authors. I also love that organizations like the Editorial Freelancers Association, as well as other editors, are there to support me and guide me.”
As with any other job, working freelance also has its disadvantages. For Ariel, it’s having to manage accounts. Fortunately for her, she married a finance guy who helps her with her taxes (I only wish it were the same for me!).
Another challenge about working as a freelancer is that work follows you wherever you go, Ariel said. “It’s tempting to work too much, allowing work to cut into valuable time with my husband or just by myself.”
Like any other freelance professional, Ariel has to deal with the risk of not having work. “There are times of feast and times of famine—I just try to be smart and plan for those times when business is slow.”
I asked Ariel three questions I’ve always wanted to ask other independent professionals (but was too shy to):
What are your interests outside of work?
Playing piano, singing, reading for pleasure, watching old movies, and going on walks.
Do you still dream of going back to a corporate setup?
I miss working around other people; sometimes staying home all day gets discouraging. But I don’t miss not choosing my own work and having to abide by rules I don’t necessarily agree with.
What’s a typical day at work for you?
I cannot work without my laptop and a beverage. I start the morning with a cup of coffee, switch to water, have a glass of iced tea (or two) after lunch, and finish with more water. I must be sufficiently hydrated…and caffeinated. I also prefer to have my Chicago Manual of Style and Oxford American Dictionary near me, but I’ll usually leave those tomes at home if I choose to work at a coffee shop, which I do often. Contrary to many other editors and despite the fact that I love music, I don’t like listening to music while I work. I’m too tempted to sing or hum along, and I get distracted. Silence or meaningless background noise helps me concentrate. Currently my favorite workplace is Starbucks, because of the cheap, delicious iced tea and free Internet.
They say when you want something badly, the universe will conspire to make it happen.
One of my mini-dreams has come true.
I’ve always wanted to go back to feature writing. It was something I used to do many years ago for the now-defunct arts and culture blog Pinoycentric (some of my posts have been archived here). But real life happened. The desire to make money pulled me toward technical writing jobs and e-mail marketing that I decided maybe feature writing wasn’t for me.
And then I stumbled onto Mariel Jimenez’s blog and became a fan. Through her blog, I lived out my dreams vicariously–living in New York, writing for magazines. Mariel encouraged me explore the local magazine industry, gave me leads on whom to approach. I thanked her and put the idea behind me until such time when I was ready.
In January this year, the opportunity came to write for Redtag.ph, an online deal reviews site. I did a couple of stories just to get my feet wet and experience cramming for deadlines and working with an editor again.
The stint lasted only three months because Redtag soon closed down. But I loved every minute of it. I enjoyed the challenge of working with an editor, having someone to please and impress (as you would a college professor), and having another person edit my work for a change (after many years as editor, that was refreshing).
In April, when I started working from home as an e-mail marketing consultant, I told myself this would be the year I’d make my writing comeback. Why not volunteer at this online news portal? I told myself. I had seen their ad for editor, and while I thought I could do it, I had zero experience in news reporting (despite the fact that I went to journalism school). I told myself I’d be willing to work for free, just for experience.
I kept checking the ad posted on a friend’s Facebook profile, until this friend (someone I went to journalism school with) convinced me to try out. Really? I asked him. You think I can do it?
Of course, he said. You’re my go-to person when I need editing advice! (Sigh. I love my friends!)
The long and short of it is I didn’t get that editing job, but I left with something else. They asked me to start contributing stories and profiles about Filipino expats, a niche I had focused on for many years at Pinoycentric. Not only that, but they would also pay me for it!
I had come full circle, going back to what I loved doing three years ago, but this time with a wider audience.
When I dreamed of going back to writing, I didn’t think it would happen like this or that it would happen so fast. All I asked was the chance to write again–tell stories that celebrated the greatness of the Filipino spirit, stories that Filipinos actually cared about. I feel blessed that God gave me this chance to make that one dream come true, assuring me that I made the right decision to leave my old job.
Every writing assignment has been a challenge. I waited three weeks for a reply and exhausted all my North America contacts to get this story. (The headline says it all: “It was all worth it.”) Some days I wake up and, over morning coffee, agonize over my first paragraph. (I got performance anxiety over this. And I got first-time jitters when I wrote this.)
But no matter how difficult it gets, even when sometimes I want to strangle myself because of my fear of writing, I always remind myself that I am back where I’ve always wanted to be. I also say a huge thank-you to that Big Guy up there who made all this happen, and the two nicest people (Marielle and Ederic) who believed that I had more stories to tell world. Thank you! I hope I could inspire another person one day, in the same way you have inspired me. May God bring you blessings a thousandfold!
Image credit: Doc
Bernard Selling’s Writing from Within: A Guide to Creativity and Life Story Writing gives us three reasons why we should do so (and no, it’s not to embarrass your crazy family):
- It’s a journey of self-discovery. We learn so much of ourselves when we write down our personal thoughts. The process allows us to step back and see our lives as other people would.
- It releases the pain of the past. For many individuals who have gone through harrowing ordeals and so much pain, writing is therapeutic and allows them to face, and hopefully exorcise, the demons of the past.
- It helps us move toward wholeness. Selling has a term for this: kalokagathia, a Greek word that refers to creating and maintaining a harmony among mind, body, and soul.
If you’re looking into writing a memoir, I’d strongly recommend you get Bernard Selling’s book. Or, wait, Writer’s Digest has a webinar about the topic on March 8, Thursday. And no, I do not get a commission if you click any of these clicks.
This question from a job posting caught my eye: Are you Shangri-La?
I wonder what the person who wrote this job ad was thinking. Does Shangri-La (proper noun, the hotel, not the fictional place in James Hilton’s book) now mean “someone with an eye for details [sic] and the skills to perform” and “someone with an attitude to deliver and a passion to delight”?
I was also bothered by the job description. You will be too.
Obviously, Shangri-La Boracay needs a competent communication [sic] coordinator, and quick. I hope the communications manager makes sure whoever wrote this job posting goes back to grammar school. Please lang. Writing is not for everyone.
Disclaimer lang (just because every blogger likes to issue one): I am not in any way connected with the Shangri-La chain of hotels. I will not get a commission for referring anyone or posting this ad. But if you people at Shangri-La are interested in my freelance writing, editing, and e-mail marketing services, you know where to contact me.
I was reading a newsletter from this up-and-coming freelance marketplace and the testimonial of a contractor caught my eye. When asked what the best thing about working from home was, she said, “Right now, I’m in my pajamas.”
I don’t know what it is with some people that they get such a kick from working in their pajamas!
I have 5 reasons why I would never work in my pajamas:
- Dressing up for work mentally prepares me for the day’s challenges.
- If you’re like me and your home office is in a corner of your bedroom, it can be difficult to fight the urge to jump into bed especially when you’re dressed for the occasion.
- I want to be dressed decently if I happen to have an impromptu video call with a prospect or a client.
- If you’re home-based, the only time you actually get dressed is when you get out of the house. And tell me, how many times would that be in a week?
- Do you really want to be in pajamas all day? Seriously?
Whether you’re working from home or in a corporate setting, I really think you should be dressed appropriately. It’s also for your own good. Remember what they say: Dress for the job you want.
Image: Thanks, Prototype7
Writer’s Digest Fred White said it best: “To be a writer means to take risks, putting yourself and your ideas out on a limb, making yourself vulnerable to criticism, maybe even ridicule.” [Source: 10 Creative Ways to Beat Writer's Block Fast]
And, boy, is he so right.
I can hardly imagine what Yale law professor Amy Chua must be going through right now, fielding criticisms right and left after an excerpt of her new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was published in the Wall Street Journal.
Just another day in the life of a writer.
Courage. It’s something any writer, aspiring or seasoned, should have in big doses. The courage to face criticism. The courage to swallow your pride when you’re corrected. The courage to stand up for what you wrote. The courage to face the consequences of what you’ve written.
And believe me, more than 10 years into my writing career, I still feel a little uncertainty, a little doubt each time I write something. I don’t click the Publish button on my blog without thinking, What will people say? Will I look bad if they read this? Will they think I am arrogant? What will my editor friends say? I hope they don’t catch a typo or a grammatical slip! Will they think this is crappy?
I’m not in total agreement with Chua’s parenting style, but I love how she’s bravely put everything out there, risking criticism and ridicule. It’s not a task any writer will easily take on, but if only for her brave spirit, I take my hat off to her.
Image: “Atmosphere of Trust” by Hansgbe