I recently started my own freelance writing and editing business. Yup, I know, in this down-turned economy. This decision was by choice, and not chosen for me, so I didn’t have the cover of unemployment insurance. I’m not insane, I promise. In fact, my former employer and I are on pretty solid and friendly terms.
I have a strong independent streak, nurtured over the years by my mother (a serial entrepreneur) and father (a pediatrician), and I certainly put a lot of thought and planning into the decision (I tend to think too much). I have wanted to write full-time since I was eight years old, but there never seemed to be a “right” time to make the plunge into self-employment. So I finally decided to just do it.
The support of my Mom, Dad, sister, and supremely patient wife Sara deserves its own blog post, so I’d like to highlight five other people who helped me take a dream and make it a reality: Robert Martin, Jayaprakash (JP) Satyamurthy, Tobias Buckell, Chris Bibey, and Amy Thackery.
I was Robert’s manager at our former place of employment. In early 2008, he resigned and moved to Wisconsin to be closer to his girlfriend, who was pursuing her Master’s degree. Robert made ends meet by freelance writing and editing. I was completely impressed by his dedication, but I won’t lie that I was a little scared for him. He had given up a steady and salaried job for what seemed like a life fraught with uncertainty and hardship. Yet, when I saw him next in August 2008, he told me he had two steady freelance gigs. When he was finished visiting Portland, he told me his plans revolved around sitting near a lake and writing. He looked happy, relaxed, and confident.
Shortly thereafter, I learned that JP Satyamurthy had quit his job as an advertising copywriter. I’ve never met JP in person – he lives in Bangalore, India – but we have been e-mail buddies since 2004. Already intrigued by Robert’s success with the freelance life, I e-mailed JP and asked how he managed to find freelance work. He told me that he worked with smaller firms and met with them in person, scoping each project. Like Robert, he seemed much happier.
As I pondered the freelance route, I started studying writers who had been freelance writers for a few years, folks like Tobias Buckell. I have corresponded with Tobias over the years, and have long admired his stories, as well as his work ethic. His insightful and helpful blog post, “how did I hustle for freelance gigs?” became an inspirational touchstone for me. Tobias had several years of experience blogging and he was a published novelist and short story writer, but he had never relied on freelancing as his sole source of income. Within time, he said he doubled the income of his former day job. His methods and plan (which he admitted may not be replicable) served as a good blueprint for me. For instance, he created Google Alerts for specific keywords, signed up for a mediabistro account, replied to every job listing that seemed pertinent, and so on.
If Tobias’ blog post gave me the inspiration and blueprint to make a go at freelancing, Chris Bibey‘s blog post, “how to find and secure freelance writing clients” provided the final push with an arsenal of “direct sales” techniques.(calls, perfecting a pitch, and so on). Chris is much younger than me, but he has been a freelance writer for more than six years, and continually encourages people to consider freelance writing as a viable career at his excellent blog.
When I made the final decision to pursue freelance writing and editing, I knew I needed business cards. Really cool business cards. As it happens, I had seen a super-cool VW bug in Portland’s Pearl District emblazoned with a logo for “Rare Byrd Creative,” a graphic design and interior design firm. Keeping JP’s advice to work with smaller design firms in mind, I had already sent an e-mail to Rare Byrd’s owner, Amy Thackery. She said she’d love to work with me, but I decided to work with her first. She designed the exceptional business cards that I used as a background on my website. Amy got me in touch with the Northwest Networking Professionals (NWNP), a group of Portland-area business owners who help generate leads for each other. Her support has been invaluable.
These individuals have wildly varying personalities, but they share one thing in common: they are generous spirits. There are plenty of people in the world ready to tell you that you won’t succeed, that life is a zero sum game, and you can only win by taking someone else’s opportunities. These five people operate with the exact opposite philosophy. They are successful because they work hard at their jobs and they love what they do. There are no guarantees in life, but these five people have shown me that networking, being open to opportunities, professionalism, and lots of hard work are all markers of success.
So here I am. I have been a freelancer for less than a month, but I have already completed a few projects. I hope to work on several more.
I haven’t regretted my decision for one minute.