How I Became a Freelance Writer

{Etsy print by LadyPoppins}
{Etsy print by LadyPoppins}

 

{by: guest blogger}

My freelance lifestyle wasn’t born out of a dream to forge my own path, pursue my innate sense of creativity at all costs or even break free from the corporate grind. Nope, my motivations weren’t as lofty as all that.

The way it really went was something like this: My husband was given a career-boosting opportunity that involved nine months of schooling in the Washington, D.C. area, with no idea where we would be moving next. We talked it over and decided together that he should take the opportunity, and before we knew it, we were on a flight from beautiful Hawaii to the Mainland and our Nation’s Capitol.

With nine months in a new city and no idea where we’d end up next, I knew I wasn’t exactly an attractive hire for local publishing companies, even with three and a half years as editor of a high-quality Hawaii magazine firmly under my belt. I also knew that taking nine months off might just be a career killer. I loved the magazine industry and didn’t want to give it up, so instead of pursuing another, more temporary line of work, I decided to go freelance. While my income level would go down, at least at the beginning, I knew it was the only way to stay in the game. Plus, I thought, if I decided to go back to full-time corporate work in nine months, I could apply again.

Up until I started freelancing, I always thought of myself as a real brick-and-mortar work type, one who thrived in an office environment, giving presentations, running meetings and performing and receiving scheduled feedback and reviews. I loved issue planning, sales seminars, client lunches and the like, and every time I visualized myself in the magazine industry ten years down the road, an office in a large city with a commute was always involved.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Today, three years later, I can’t imagine giving up my journey from the bottom to the top of the stairs (the exact distance between my kitchen and my home office) for a one-hour commute in rush-hour traffic. I’ll never trade in my jeans and T-shirts for a suit again if I can help it. Though I’ve been blessed with some pretty amazing co-workers over the years, nobody beats our two adorable hounds, George and Patty, for workplace company.

I’ve traded a higher income for lower stress and constant deadlines for creative freedom. And that’s all fine with me. But there are negative tradeoffs as well. I have to be my own financial manager, my own marketing and public relations department and social media consultant. Without my husband’s income, I have yet to work out how I’d support myself writing without taking on a second job. And I do sometimes miss the outside validation that comes from a glowing annual review or promotion.

A lot of bloggers encourage readers to dream big and take the freelance plunge in one fell swoop. Some life career coaches talk about goal setting and pursuing a life or career “with intention” as if all one has to do is dream it in order to do it.

The reality is, for many of us, freelancing is a huge leap off of a very high diving board. Some of us risk our financial heath, our relationship power dynamic or the prospect of falling behind in our chosen field. All of us risk failure. I took a calculated risk with enough water under the high dive to ensure a safe plunge. And to be honest, I might never have jumped off if I had many other options. But today, as I sit here in my comfy home office, with my pooches curled up at my feet and a day of whatever I decide ahead, I can honestly say I made the right choice.

If you’re considering going freelance, I say, more power to you! I know I’m swimming in the right pool. But only you know how high your diving board should be and how much water you need in the pool before you make a splash. So be sure to think it through. Dip a pinkie toe in the water and try one article or two on the weekends for a while if you can. Review your finances carefully. Devour books on the subjects of freelance writing and starting your own business (Check out one of my favorites here). Talk things over with your partner. Attend a few free seminars in your area, if offered, on the subject of starting your own business (I attended a lot of free and low-cost SCORE events, for example, when I was first starting out.) Basically, run through all the boring considerations you won’t find laid out in most blogs that tout creative, freelance lifestyles. There’s no one right path to freelance success, so find the process that works for you, both personally and practically. When you have it worked out, and if you decide to take the plunge like I did, then I say, come on in. The water really is so fine.

Sabra Morris profile picSabra Morris is a full-time freelance writer on topics such as home décor and remodeling, wellness, family life, pet care, ecofriendly living, solar technology, retirement living, food and farm equipment. Her work has appeared in Virginia Living magazine, Northern Virginia magazine, Southern Living, Dog Fancy and Hawaii Home + Remodeling magazine, among others. She blogs at thefreelance-life.com.