Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Willy Wonka

One of the reasons I want to freelance full-time is to make time for other creative endeavors. My favorite art form is live theatre. I love it. Exposure to theatre on both a professional and community level keeps me going and makes me happy to be alive. I try to see as many shows as possible, and when I have time, I perform in local productions. Because of time commitments to my full-time job, my commute, and my side freelance business, I’ve had to choose my shows carefully. But I’d like to have the freedom to do a lot more in the future.

I just closed a production of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka this past Sunday. It’s a stage musical based on the 1971 film. It has all of the songs from the movie, plus a few that were written specifically for the stage show. I played Mrs. Bucket, and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on stage. I’m actually having a hard time letting go of my attachment to this particular production, and I’m already growing antsy and looking forward to auditions for future shows. It’ll be a few months before I’m ready to try out for another production, though. For now, I’m looking forward to a (somewhat) relaxing summer and the extra time to work on writing projects.

(The Bucket Shack! Grandparents in the first photo; me with Mr. Bucket and Charlie in the second.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Pitfalls of Writing Web Content

Any other freelance writers out there struggle against the “it’s not a REAL job” stereotype? Particularly web content writers?

It’s no secret that I want to take my freelance business full-time someday. It won’t happen anytime soon, because I’m comfortable and generally happy in my full-time job, and the money I make from my freelance business is helping me pay off some old debts and build savings and pay for things I wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise.


The fact of the matter is that my regular job, while enjoyable and fulfilling, is a 30-mile drive from my home. I happen to love my hometown and have no intention of moving to be closer to my workplace. So I have to ask myself—will I still want to make this commute in two years? Five? Ten? And if not, then what are my plans?

This line of thinking always makes me refocus my freelancing efforts. Because when it comes down to it, I want to be in charge of my own career, my own salary, my own life. I want to stop polluting the planet with my daily drives. If GrammarHubby and I have kids eventually, I want to be able to stay at home with them and not have to drop them off at some daycare at 8:00 in the morning and not see them again until 7:00 at night. So taking my writing and editing business full-time eventually is a major goal for me.

However, I’ve noticed lately that whenever I bring up the topic, GrammarHubby gets uncharacteristically quiet. If he responds at all, it’s usually to point out what a good job I have now. (And I do have a good job; don’t get me wrong. But I’d like more freedom and flexibility down the road.) I’ve suspected for a while that he (understandably) is nervous about the idea of me giving up a full-time job with regular pay and benefits and venturing into the “unknown.”

We got to the heart of the issue last night. I’d run some numbers through an online commute calculator and was horrified to discover that my daily commute costs me close to $10,000 each year when you figure in the costs of gas, car maintenance, insurance and depreciation. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. We bought a brand-new car in 2006. Four years later, that car has 120,000 miles on it and we’ve had to replace some fairly expensive parts. Sooner rather than later, we’re going to have to trade it in for a new one. I used this as an argument for freelancing—once I take my business full-time, I won’t need a new, low-mileage car anymore. We can sell whatever car we have and pay cash for an older car, and I can bike or take the bus to as many places as possible while running errands. Based on the money I’ve been making part-time as a freelancer, I’m certain that I could at least match my current salary if I jumped to full-time. And with the money saved on commuting, we’d actually come out ahead of where we are now.

So I presented all this to GrammarHubby, but he still wasn’t convinced. After some probing, I finally managed to get him to admit the real problem.

He doesn’t think freelancing is a real job.

Okay, maybe that’s not fair. He knows I’m really working. He even admitted that logically, his fears don’t make a lot of sense. But because I do all of my writing for the Internet, he doesn’t ever see concrete evidence that I’m actually working. My articles usually don’t get a byline, and I’ve never been published in a print magazine or written a book—and after all, those are the marks of a “real” writer, aren’t they? And since I’m the one who handles the finances, he doesn’t even really see the money I make from my writing. In general, he knows that I do some mystery work and get paid a couple of times a month, and that’s it. “It doesn’t seem like something you could do full-time,” he admitted.

So I fired up my laptop and showed him some of my most recently published articles. I also showed him a spreadsheet that has all of my current projects listed on it, as well as our bank statements from the past few months that reflect my freelancing income. By the time we were done, we both felt much better. He has a better understanding of what it is that I actually do, and I feel like he’s more supportive of my goals now that he understands them better.

But this misconception of freelance writing is a real issue. I’ve found that most people I talk to don’t really understand what a freelance writer actually does. And they definitely don’t understand that you can make a real living doing this type of work. I’ve had this argument many times with several members of my family, and I know I’ll have it more and more often as I start to make serious plans to make the leap.

Obviously, I shouldn’t care what people think of my career choices. As long as I’m happy and making a decent living, that’s all that should matter. But it seems like anytime you proudly say, “I want to be a freelance writer,” you’re met with gloom and doom and expectations of failure. So how do you deal with that? Any advice from longtime freelancers? How did you deal with naysayers in the beginning of your career?