Re-entering the World of Writing: One Writer's Story
Pink Floyd's "Time"
Imagine going to bed and waking up the next morning to find your self thrust into time 30 years ahead. Ridiculous you say? You’ve watched too many time travel movies, Bravewarrior, you say? Nope, in fact I’ve only seen “Back to the Future” and that entailed time travel in reverse. Sometimes I wish I could peel back the sands of time, but that is wasted thinking.
The truth is, one night I went to sleep as a paid copywriter who freelanced on the side, and the next morning I awakened to the world of cost accounting, several hundred miles from home. Don’t get me wrong; I never stopped writing. I simply was no longer paid for my words. Oh sure, I continued to write poetry – even had 4 poems chosen for inclusion in anthologies over the years. Cost accounting afforded me a reliable schedule and was more conducive to raising a family. As it turns out, it was a wise decision on my part because I found myself as a single mom for most of my son’s life.
In 2011 the construction company I worked for decided to become LEED certified. In so doing, we formed what I deemed “The Green Team”. We were a committee of several employees who shared ideas on going green within the office. This really ramped me up. I had tons of ideas and was an active participant in the meetings. Knowing I had been a writer in my younger years, the Vice President challenged me to write Green Tips, a new series to be posted on the company’s website. I was the sole contributor and began stewing up ideas each Thursday; I was very excited and proud of my new post. My Saturdays were spent putting those ideas onto paper which were then posted each Monday to the website.
My creative embers were now sparked and I was on fire. I wanted to do more than post Green Tips for the company website (for which I was not compensated); I wanted to be a writer – again. I joined HubPages in October 2011. I found a wonderfully supportive community, found my writers voice (which differs from my copywriter’s voice) and was once again passionate about my creative self. Eleven months later I quit my job to write full time. It was a huge risk, but I just couldn’t stand the corporate environment any longer. I had to get out and begin striving towards my dream. I was 55 at the time and knew I had to go for it or the window might close on me, never to be opened again.
I will now share with you what life has been like for this writer from then until now.
In the beginning
When I was a copywriter in the early to mid 1980s I was salaried at $300/week plus 5 percent commission on any airtime I sold. As copywriter, I spent a lot of time with our clients. I gained a rapport with them and the reps at the local network affiliate stations. As the result, when a client wanted to buy more airtime, they would do it through me. It seems our sales reps were of the ‘love them and leave them’ mentality. Once they had their commission checks in hand, they never bothered to build a relationship with our clients. That turned out to be good for me and our clients. We had repeat customers as the result and I was making damn good money. In addition, I freelanced for the editing company we used to the tune of $50/hour. As a young, vibrant single girl in the ‘80’s I was high on the hog.
Flash forward to 2011.
I posted my profile on Freelancer.com. I hadn’t yet bid on any jobs, but was contacted by a freelance writer out of Jacksonville who thought I’d be a good fit for her team. I was elated. Wow, this is going well. I’m being sought and I’ve only just begun!
Then the bomb dropped. I was assigned 15 articles at 500 words each for – get this - $1 per article. WTF! It was a good thing I still had my day job at this point! I took the gig just so I could have some current experience under my belt. You see, back in the ‘80s there was no SEO, keyword density or online writing. I had a whole new world to master if I expected to live my dream, so I had to eat crow. Let me tell you, crow tastes nothing like chicken!
Soon after that, a few more clients hired me. Now I was making $2 and $3/500 words. Hey, I was on a roll! (Can you hear the sarcasm?) Nevertheless, I was gaining experience and had plenty of work. By this time I really hated my day job and sat down one weekend to do the math. I figured out how many articles I would have to write in a week to meet my monthly overhead. Forget about trying to match my accounting salary – that was over $900/week. Anyway, I tendered my resignation knowing I’d have my 401k to help me out until I could start making real money.
All was going well, but I was hungry for more and the peanuts I was being paid for my work really started to piss me off. One day, billybuc sent me a lead for a content mill that was paying $11/300 words and offered weekly bonuses of $50. I applied and was accepted. I was averaging $325/week, which equated to about 80 percent of my overhead. At least I wasn’t dipping so far into savings at this point.
Then the site went down for 2 weeks for re-organization. Oh, shit. That meant 2 weeks with no income. When they came back up they’d changed the rules. They no longer offered the bonus program plus the word count went up and the pay per article went down. Crap!
I’d lost my momentum in those 2 weeks and decided I would no longer lower myself to the slap-in-the-face-pay the mills offer.
It was time to come up with a new game plan.
You want me to build a what?
I started surfing looking for freelance jobs and discovered many helpful blogs dedicated to the art of writing. Every blasted one of them strongly recommended you build a writers site in order to get good paying clients to notice you. Many writers starting out (or starting over, as in my case) can’t afford to pay a webmaster. Oh, but good news! Several hosts allow you to build your own for free!
Great, just great! I am far from tech savvy. I know how to type, use the number keypad and hit the backspace or undo button, but build a friggin’ website? Are you kidding me?
I knew I had to tackle the unknown if I expected to move forward in my career. At the same time, several of my cyber friends were breaking away from HP and building their own websites. We emailed each other back and forth (we’re still tight) and discovered a free web host called Weebly.com. My friends dove right in but I lingered behind, insecure in my ability to play the IT role.
I put it off until sometime in August of 2013. By this time I hadn’t had a paying gig since the end of April and I was starting to panic. Then I did what I’ve done all my life: I pulled myself up by the bootstraps, went into Weebly and started creating my website. I spent a solid week working on it and still find myself making tweaks to the site 2 months later. But I did it and I’m proud.
Building an online presence
After I built my site, I delved heavily into researching how to bring traffic to my site, gain subscribers to my blog, etc. I’ve built profiles on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. I’ve completed the Google Authorship process and am an Amazon Affiliate. I attend webinars weekly, have downloaded free e-books on becoming a successful freelancer, posted a listing on Yelp.com and Superpages.com, had business cards made up and even ordered magnets for my car. I’m an active commenter on the blogs I follow. I’m doing everything I’ve been advised to do. I’ve even signed up for a really awesome ‘by invitation only’ site that offers guidance, job leads, critiques of your work and website, community forums, free e-courses and boot camps, etc., in order to try to get myself working again.
Now I’ve hit another area in which I’m very insecure and that’s marketing. I’ve never had to market myself before. My work spoke for itself. But those were simpler times and now is now. We’re no longer simply writers. We also have to market ourselves and do what advertising agencies have entire departments for to handle the needs of their writing staff. I have to face up to that and once again do something I don’t want to do if I expect to survive in this business. (Jeez, you’d think my bootstraps would be worn out by now!)
Don't spin around in circles
Words of advice
Sometimes you can be a little too educated. At my last accounting job we used to whisper amongst us that the (newly appointed) President was under-socialized and over- educated. Sometimes too much learning can turn around and bite you in the ass.
I’ve spent so much time learning in the past few months that I’ve had little time for writing. The blogs I subscribe to email me daily. There’s something to be learned in each one. I get daily notifications from HP that my favorite authors have published something new. I have 2 webinars scheduled for each Thursday. It’s gotten to where I feel like there’s not enough time in the day to do all I need to do in order to move forward. Too often lately, I feel like I’m spinning in circles and can’t find the way out.
So, here’s what I’ve decided: There are only so many hours in the day. I find myself getting burned out and more confused than enlightened. I have to gauge my time and give a little piece of me to each area that needs attention rather than spend all my time trying to keep up with emails and classes.
I’ll see if this will work for me:
- Spend an hour or so scanning email to see what should be addressed now.
- Write every day, even if only a few hundred words. Word comes with a handy-dandy ‘save’ button that allows me to return at my leisure.
- Spend a couple of hours a day working on marketing. I have a flyer I want to design to mail out/hand out. Do it! Look up local businesses and contact them letting them know I’m available to help them with their writing needs.
- Spend an hour or so in the Freelance Writers Den. After all, I’m paying for it.
- Spend an hour or so daily coming up with article ideas for my blog, HP submissions and ideas to pitch to magazines.
- This is a biggie – learn how to write a query letter and start querying!
- Save time for myself doing what I loved to do before I became consumed with writing.
I need to organize my time and tackle the areas that scare the pants off me. I refuse to let my dream die. Even more so, I refuse to be the cause of death!
The bottom line is this: if you're serious about pursuing your dreams, do it. It won't be easy, but then nothing worth having is. Push yourself. Get pissed at yourself when you find you are the reason you're not moving forward. Life and dreams are full of obstacles. Don't let the obstacles be you! Overcome. Dream. Strive. Achieve.
Thanks for letting me share my experiences with you. Putting it down on paper has helped me gain perspective. I hope you’ve gotten something out of it, too.
P.S. What are your experiences in launching your career? Have you become discouraged? How have you overcome your fears? I'd love to hear your story. Feel free to share in the comments section below.
Shauna L Bowling
Refining, Defining or Rhyming
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© 2013 Shauna L Bowling