It’s been eight months since I rejoined the freelance world and finally, things aren’t looking quite as grim. Or, at least, they aren’t quite as grim today.
I was no stranger to freelancing, in fact, I’ve only had one full-time, writing-based job in my life. That lasted two years and, in that time, I got used to getting paychecks regularly. I liked not having to remember to submit invoices and then wait thirty days for the check. I loved not having to scramble to get together money for those ever increasing health insurance premiums. It’s really easy to be seduced by the allure of benefits, so much so that you forget all the lessons you learned in Office Space.
At first, I was only freelancing until I could find another full-time job, but I quickly grew tired of sending out applications and never receiving a response. Then I realized that I had two options. I could continue pursuing the good ol’ day job and end up in another situation where I’m hating life, but am too scared to leave. Or, I could focus on freelancing, hate life for a year or so until I get the business off the ground and then, finally, be proud of myself for the first time in my life. I’ll take the latter.
The freelance journalist’s life is hard, maybe harder now than its ever been. There are an awful lot of venues to have your work published, but there are also a lot of people writing, which means rates are pretty low. Right now, you can’t just be a writer. You have to be able to photograph your story. You should probably have some video and audio editing skills too. You must have a strong social media profile. You’re absolutely expected to promote your work. And you have to do this with turnarounds that are faster than anything I’ve ever experienced before the blog world became so competitive, sometimes in a matter of a few hours. Keep in mind that this is for stories that you either won’t own or won’t be able to convince anyone else to reprint.
So, what do you do to really make the business work? I don’t have an answer yet. Right now, I do a lot of behind-the-scenes freelance work. My byline won’t appear anywhere, but it’s steady enough to allow me to be picky about the assignments that do feature my name. This is incredibly important for maintaining some semblance of quality control.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out other ways I can monetize my writing without doing things that make me uncomfortable.Could syndicating the stories I outright own work? Should I self-publish the pieces that never were never sold as ebooks? Would people even be interested in that?
More importantly, can I apply the lessons I learned while I was playing indie records on a college radio station and writing for ‘zines and make a living now? Let’s find out.