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Hire Yourself! Freelance Writing.

Updated on February 4, 2012

The erstwhile job candidate…

I was nervous. Who wouldn’t be? I was dressed OK. My typical flip-flops and t-shirt had been replaced with my “fancy” sandals and my lucky “button down” Hawaiian shirt (the one that still has all its’ buttons…hence…the luck).

Additionally, on the button front…All the pockets of my cargo shorts were securely fastened and buttoned.

Extra time was taken to ensure that Velcro was lined up and applied neatly. I believe you only have one chance to make a great first good impression.

Still, I was nervous. Beyond the normal stresses associated with a job interview…I seemed to be saying “buttons” a lot this morning. I sometimes do that when I get nervous.

I was early. About 15-minutes or so…I once read that you didn’t want to show up 45-minutes before a job interview…as unfortunate perceptions of neediness result. Neediness is hardly the image I wished to project during the interview…this was an important position and I wanted it. Hence:The “fancy” sandals.

I intended to skulk about the sidewalk before entering, triumphantly, just one-minute before the meeting was scheduled. OK…that part was buttoned down…damn…

Alas, aligned Velcro, sturdy buttons, and razor sharp punctuality were mere window dressing (not to mention my greatest work of fiction ever…the resume); Smoke and mirrors, a sleight-of-hand manipulating invisible wires held by mad puppeteers pulling at strings designed to distract and dismay. At forty-seven I had, at best, negligible marketable job skills…the history degree had seemed a good idea in college…I was putting a lot of stock in those puppeteers. The proof was in the pudding and my pudding had a disturbing skein of film across the top…relative to today’s job market.


The Down-Low…

Things were tight. Somehow…the “bill collectors” had gotten my cell phone number. I remembered that awkward exchange as I loitered on the sidewalk…

“Is this Mr. Thought Sandwiches?” asked the deceptively pleasant voice after I innocently answered my own cell-phone.

“It is indeed,” I replied jauntily.

“Hello Mr. Sandwiches,” she said, “This is Patricia with ‘We Own Your Ass, Inc.’” …Auto finance company! Shit!

(No, I have no intention of explaining why I am financing a forty-three year old car with one headlight, a quirky exhaust hose, a serious right turning issue, and bad paint. Like the history degree…it seemed a good idea at the time).

“Mr. Sandwiches…I have to let you know that this is an attempt to collect… ”Patricia’s reasoned (but stern) tone was interrupted by my shriek…

“Bill Collectors in the wire! Bill Collectors in the wire!!” I immediately ‘lit up the mental claymores’ and hung up. In my defense…she startled me. They normally call the land-line which is the express purpose for having a land-line. Still, I’m not proud of my actions. Each unanswered subsequent call seemed shriller. She was mad…

As frequently happens when I am in full blown button mode…I returned to the mantra I associate with the obsession…”button-button…who’s got the button?” Well, I thought…like the book...This trip may prove either good or bad (but it's sure to be different)…as I walked into the building…my internal CD player switches to Grace Slick’s haunting voice singing “White Rabbit…”Oh…excellent interview music!

The skeptical hiring employer…

I was nervous. Who wouldn’t be? Fact was…nobody else but this Thought Sandwiches fellow had even bothered to answer the employment classified. As a sole-proprietor…it was hard to get good help. What kind of name was Thought Sandwiches?

A most cursory look at his resume revealed glaring inconsistencies and prior employers had, long since gone the way of the dinosaurs, making verification difficult. The man’s financial records suggested that if someone were to steal his identity for financial gain…they would be doing so merely as a training exercise.

His criminal history was clean…more or less. The most serious charge appeared to be a plea bargain, lodged in Comma Court in which he pled Nolo contendere to three counts of “Obstruction of the Lawful Flow of a Sentence,” According to court documents; he was given a suspended sentence and a fine. His request for the fine to be converted into community service was approved.

Yep. I was worried. Still, the position was essentially only a writing job and he seemed capable of turning the occasional odd phrase…


The Interview…

In keeping with the low-key nature of the owner…the interview was conducted somewhat informally. The office was attractively appointed. A profusion of plants, history books, and varied ruminations were posted on notes and affixed to every conceivable surface. The desk was crowded with the detritus of caffeine-fueled writing; empty coffee cups and Mountain Dew cans. A lone Red-bull stands grazing on the disheveled work station. Playing low over the office speakers was a Jefferson Airplane album, “Surrealistic Pillow”…

Upon meeting…both men could agree that the other was reasonably attractive and exhibited personal grooming qualities above reproach. The owner was the type who appreciated a nicely aligned Velcro strap…while the supplicant took note of the proprietor’s casual flip-flops...However, like an exercise in speed dating…beyond the superficial…there were negotiations to conduct…

“Hello, you must be Thought Sandwiches,” began the owner.

“Yes. But only because no one else wants the job,” the applicant replied nervously with a laugh.

“I can imagine.” A rather disconcerting statement.

Sitting across from each other they mirrored the others movement. The owner sifted through a stack of papers…the applicant mentally counted the number of buttons he could see within his view but without moving his head… he was on fifteen when the owner looked up…


The fourth and seventh things you would most prefer not to hear in a Job Interview...

“You flunked your drug test and your resume is full of shit. Your turn.”

“Yeeees... I am afraid that I did not have time to study for that particular drug test.” Thought Sandwiches admitted matter-of-factly; his fingers formed a steeple in front of his face…finger tips bouncing against each other. The gesture is accompanied by a level stare. The owner accepts this.

“OK…this resume…you say you edited ‘The Book of Poppy Willows’ and you claim this book is “somewhere” in the bible? That’s a lie. I checked.”

Thought Sandwiches was taken aback by the apparent thoroughness of the background investigation.

Rattled, “Um…did you check the LATEST edition? I believe they call it the New Testament?? Somewhere near the middle???…maybe “bible” was a typo…”

(Awkward silence seems embarrassed by just HOW silent it is…)


A turn for the better...?

“So…” starts the owner…

“…buttons!” Jumps in Thought Sandwiches…pleased to be able to contribute to the conversation in a positive way.

The owner does an eye squint and cocks his head to the right….Thought Sandwiches does the same while thinking…’fellow button issue guy?’ The owner pulls back from the mirror and makes a decision.

“You would make next to nothing. You OK with that?”

“Next to nothing lives right next door to what I am making now,” Replies Sandwiches hopefully, “I am familiar with the neighborhood.”

“I don’t see you getting a byline…you have a problem with staff?”

“Only when it’s spelled s-t-a-p-h.”

“Alright,” said the proprietor smiling at that response. He leaned back in his chair and popped open a can of Mountain Dew, “Your first assignment is a 50-word hub about writing as a freelancer…JUST 50-words. None of this 1,000 word crap you seem to spew…no rambling dialogue…just a simple 50-word hub on my desk on Monday. Can you manage that?”

“I will be the height of brevity I assure you,” said a happy Thought Sandwiches.

“Welcome aboard then. I run a pretty mellow operation here…we’re not really “fancy” sandal folk…you can dial back the whole G.Q. thing…”

Newsboy, Iowa City, 1940, Arthur Rothstein.
Newsboy, Iowa City, 1940, Arthur Rothstein.

Self-Employment as a Writer! by...Staph

Is a career as Freelance Writer the right one for you? Before answering the question the aspiring scribe needs to answer two questions first: 1) Are you being realistic in your expectations and honest with yourself about your abilities? 2) Do you possess the necessary cash reserves to hold you until such time as your new writing career takes off? Think of it as an interview with yourself. Crap…sixty-eight words…


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