“No Capes!”

“No Capes!”

Interview Outfit
Photo by Adrienne Andersen from Pexels

For most of my working career, I’ve worn uniforms of one form or another. From lifeguarding at the local pool to my years as a vet tech, each position came with an expected appearance. And, in a lot of ways, that made my life easy. Even when barely coherent, it didn’t take much effort to get ready in the morning. So long as I kept the scrub tops and bottoms on separate shelves, I could manage to clothe myself. (And, yes, that was an early “lesson learned”) Throwing on that red bathing suit and a pair of shorts? It was even easier! While not allowing room for creativity or imagination, it provided structure and simplicity to my morning routine.

But it made interviews weird.

Everyone’s heard the phrase “dress for the job you want.” Frankly, I think it’s a stupid adage. No one walks to the pool in a bathing suit with a whistle around their neck. Mostly because the managers figure that you showed up because you were interested in a lifeguarding position. (Either that, or you were an idiot incapable of realizing the pool was still closed for the winter) You dressed like a responsible individual, exuding confidence that you could – if needed – rescue a drowning individual. No matter how attractive you look in swim wear, that isn’t the image projected.

The same thing goes for the medical field. While they KNOW you’re there for the technician position they’re so desperate to fill (newsflash: the veterinary field is always short-staffed), no one’s impressed by someone walking in the door in scrubs. I don’t care what Hollywood shows you: NO ONE looks good in scrubs. They’re a functional garment, and there’s nothing fashionable about them. The interview is meant to demonstrate (again) responsibility, maturity, and intelligence. And if you want the job, you’re going to dress appropriately.

Or you’re going to end up looking for work elsewhere.

So, yeah, stupid rule. And I’ve always laughed at it. (If I dressed for the job I WANTED, I’d bust out some dramatic successful supervillain creation – whatever that looks like. I’m also not sure it would work well at any of the places I’d apply…) But, for some strange reason, it hit between the eyes when I was staring down the barrel of an interview for a writing job. I panicked. What in the world are you supposed to wear to convey the image of intelligence, creativity, dependability, competence, and everything else someone could want out of a writer? How to portray the essence of WRITER?

I stood in front of my dresser, walked back to my closet, and I fretted. What have I seen successful, professional writers wear? That, it turned out, was a stupid question to ask. My only exposure to those people has been Cons. And what did they wear? Well, some wore costumes. (An interesting idea, but probably not the best) A few DID dress in business attire. But the majority? They looked like average, ordinary, COMFORTABLE individuals. Probably because that’s what writers ARE, when you think about it.

Breakthrough!

Freelance writers? We don’t sit in front of our computers and laptops in business suits. (If some of you do, fantastic. I hope you have a comfy chair) We’re not the corporate type. Everyone has an individual voice they lend to their work. And that’s reflected in what we throw on each day. Our appearance is as unique as the tone of voice we capture in sentences. And our publications? Those are what speak for us LOUDEST. So why was I fretting over something like what to wear – in a Zoom interview, of all things?

It made me stop and reassess. Instead of trying to go out of my way and figure out what a “professional freelance writer” (such an absurd concept) might look like, why didn’t I look like ME? They had my portfolio with my work. They weren’t trying to figure out if I could walk into an office every day with heels and a dress (been there, done that). No, they wanted a writer who could meet deadlines, prepare content, and provide creativity. (The fact my hair’s currently bright pink was probably already a strike against me for the whole corporate thing, anyway) So why not dress like ME? Isn’t that who they were interviewing in the first place? A quirky, creative writer a little outside of the box?

Oh, wait – that WAS the job I wanted!

In the end, I didn’t throw on anything other than my usual clothing. I even forgot to put my contacts in and had my glasses on (not that they’re bad or anything – I quite like them). No makeup, no jewelry, and nothing special beyond my Hocus, Pocus “My Lucky Rat Tail” socks (for luck, of course) – and the interviewer couldn’t see those, anyway. Oh, and Tonks, of course. She participates in EVERY work call I attempt. (How she knows the sound of that camera coming on is beyond me)

Maybe my different, casual look dinged me. Or maybe it didn’t, because the focus was on, oh, I don’t know – the strength of my answers to the questions? I guess I’ll have to wait and see. But I’M in a better place in regards to the whole interview outfit question. I’m a weird, creative person! And that’s the image I want to project. I’m submitting proposals to jobs that look for energy and entertainment and the ability to engage people. I can do that, without scrambling to overhaul my wardrobe. If nothing else, I’ll stand out from the crowd. And THAT’S something you want in the freelance world.

Maybe there’s a little something to dressing for the job you want – provided it’s the right job. And if anyone sees a posting out there for supervillain, let me know! I have the PERFECT outfit!

Literary Homicide

Literary Homicide

Does anyone else get jabbed in the side during movies for muttering, “That’s not how it is in the book?” (At least, if you’re polite, you mutter. Sometimes it slips out at a higher volume because you can’t restrain yourself due to outrage) Or maybe you walk out of a theatre with intense back pain because you slouched lower and lower in the seat, mortally embarrassed for your favorite author, beloved characters, and a treasured fandom. Not to mention, you’ve had to grin and apologize uncountable times to the person in front of you for stomping your foot every time someone screwed up a line or behaved so far out of context, your body reacted without thought.

It’s appalling!

And Hollywood loves doing this. They destroy our favorite books left, right, and center. It’s almost to the point that you start to believe they’ve hired someone who’s only job is sitting in a corner of the room, plotting how to unravel plots, twist characters, and murder classic lines. The Anti-Author, if you will. Maybe other people in the audience don’t realize what’s going on (other than to whine they don’t understand what the hype is about said book), but YOU know. And you slowly hemorrhage as hundreds of potential readers turn their backs on a work of literary genius. All courtesy of the Anti-Author.

Friends and family grew so tired of my endless diatribes against poor film adaptations, they refused to go to the movies with me. Hell, they wouldn’t even sit in a living room with me if they knew I’d read the book already. And I couldn’t blame them or get upset about it. I felt personally victimized by the actions of a bunch of Hollywood executives sitting in a back room, hacking apart my favorite fictional pieces. Seeing that “Soon to be a Motion Picture” sticker on a book in the store? That felt like a knife in the guts.

I needed a new habit.

Rather than feeling my blood pressure reach stroke level, I decided to flip the order of things. Any book that caught my interest courtesy of a movie or television trailer stayed on the shelf until AFTER sitting through Hollywood’s version. But I promised myself not to let that version taint my opinion. (After all, I was intrigued enough to consider it, and odds were pretty high I’d already skimmed the book jacket) Even if I rolled my eyes through the movie and left with a sour taste in my mouth (*cough* Artemis Fowl *cough*), I determined to return to the book after. Usually because I was so convinced there was NO WAY the author was THAT bad.

It’s a system that’s served me well about 99% of the time. (There are exceptions to every rule, and that 1% proves that sometimes even Hollywood can’t make something better) Instead of driving everyone crazy in a semi-quiet theatre – a rant for another time – I can wait, blithely innocent of every twist and turn with the rest of the audience. And THEN I can prattle on about everything Hollywood got wrong once I’ve devoured the book…depending on who I can track down and get to hold still long enough to listen.

But it isn’t a perfect system.

Sometimes those magic makers get sneaky. They decide to turn pieces into film that I’ve already read. It’s a wrinkle in the system that I can’t account for. (NOT reading isn’t an option) For instance, the Shadow and Bone trilogy. I started my usual grumble-fest – until my husband looked at me and told me he was enjoying the series. He hadn’t read the books, but I HAD. So I bit my tongue. (And, honestly, on the scale of adaptations, it’s not bad)

Then there are a few times I’ve been TERRIFIED to watch a movie because of how fantastic a book was. I didn’t want to witness the burning destruction of a phenomenal piece of literature. But those teasers and trailers are SO tempting. They crawl under your skin with appropriate lines, glimpses of characters better than you imagined, and hints of accurate plot. So I braced myself for disappointment – which never came. A Monster Calls and The Fault in Our Stars? They got it right. I’d read the books before the movies hit theatres. And I didn’t want my emotions shattered. (We won’t touch on the fact that either one will cripple you emotionally on their own) But someone hog-tied the Anti-Author in both instances. Because the films created the same depth of feeling the books did.

So while there might be some bugs in my system (and an occasional exception to the rule), it’s kept me from losing my cool as often. And I don’t have as many bruises on my ribs. It DOES mean I have to wait to read certain books, which is frustrating. But when you balance a potential stroke against a little delay? Yeah, health ranks higher.

Defending the Line

Defending the Line

You have to defend your boundaries
Photo by Burst from Pexels

What’s one of the best things regarding freelance writing (or any freelance job)? Getting to set and control your hours, of course. You have complete freedom over when you want to work. Which means you have ZERO obligation to keep a standard 9:00-5:00 schedule if it doesn’t work for you. Want to take an extended lunch hour? No problem. Feel like burning the midnight oil when no one else is up and about (and likely to pester you)? That’s your decision. Only want to work during the week and leave your weekends open for adventures? You have the right to make that choice.

YOU are in control of yourself.

As long as you complete the work and deliver it to your client on time, they don’t care if you “clock in” at 2:00 PM or 2:00 AM. It’s a huge perk. You aren’t squished into the box of regular work hours, staring at a clock and wondering why that minute hand never moves. And you don’t have to get on your knees to beg for time off when doctor appointments or other events pop up out of the blue. You simply schedule them to suit your needs and work around them. It’s one of the best situations out there. Honestly, freelance writing took a GIANT load of stress off my shoulders in that regard.

Until I realized people are time thieves.

The words, “I’m a freelance writer, so my schedule’s flexible,” are absolute poison. Suddenly, I opened a gateway for people to decide they have the right to invade my world with demands. That “flexibility” translates into excessive wait times, multiple appointments over several days (because one makes no sense), and frequent interruptions. After all, why should they worry about taking time out of my life? I can simply work later, right? I gave these idiots permission to intrude on a schedule I worked so hard to carve out.

You HAVE to set boundaries with the outside world. Yes, you have that flexibility – when it’s needed! Otherwise, people need to learn that you’re working! Maybe you don’t punch into a clock every day, with a boss hovering over your shoulder, but you still have assignments and tasks to accomplish. You ARE WORKING! It looks different, but it’s no less important than what they’re doing. How would they feel if you treated them the same way? (Ask them sometime) Stand up for yourself and defend that boundary. The freelance work you do is IMPORTANT, and if you can’t work? Well, you’re not going to pay those doctor bills (or whatever the appointment is for).

Admitting you have flexibility is a dangerous thing. You’re trying to be accommodating. A lot of people struggle with their schedules because they’re trapped in those jobs with bosses that frown at them when they ask for five minutes to breathe. They need specific times. You don’t. So you’re trying to help out the rest of the world. But you don’t want to get taken advantage of, either. It’s a careful balance of being helpful while still setting up walls to defend YOUR time.

And, honestly, I’m still working on the balance.

I cut people off when they start tirades about how great it is to not have a schedule. I point out that EVERYONE tries to steal my schedule. I chop phone conversations short. And if I’m in the middle of an article and feeling overwhelmed? Those calls go to voicemail. I’ll deal with them later – as I would with a “normal” job. Maybe it shocks the doctor, but it reaffirms the boundary I’ve set. My work needs to come first. You need to figure out how to do the same thing. And if you work in the middle of the night, you need to build those walls to defend your sleeping time.

Our work looks different to the rest of the world. That doesn’t make it NOT work.

Tag It

Tag It

Screen capture of Evernote tag list

Most people look over my workspace (virtual or physical) and label me psychotic. Because if you can think of it, I have it. Color-coding, tracking sheets, Post-It notes, scratch paper, files with (color-coded) tabs… I even have one notebook for writing down the weirdness with my health and one for the Minions (complete with cute stickers on the outside so you know which belongs to who). Organization is my life. I can FEEL when a book or movie is out of order on the shelf (and I’ll go crazy until I remedy the situation). So it stands to reason that I’d never overlook a way to sort through my research.

Or so one would think.

Subconsciously, I think I allowed some self-sabotage to get to me. After all, following a dream you’ve held your entire life is terrifying. You expect to crash and burn and go crawling back to corporate, soul-sucking America. (Incidentally, if you’re happy in corporate America, good for you. I never was) So when I set up my first few “notes” in Evernote, I didn’t bother with the single-most critical feature of the program: the humble Tag.

Allow me to briefly diverge here and confess that I’m old enough NOT to live in a world of hashtags. To me, the “#” is still a pound sign. You use it to play tic-tac-toe, not to devolve into weird spirals on Instagram or Facebook. When I had my first blog out of college, tags made their introduction as a part of blog culture (before any of us knew what the hell SEO meant). But that blog died ages ago, and I lost practice. I only picked it back up with my writing.

Fast forward to last month when I found myself scrolling back through PAGES of notes, trying to find the name of one stupid fish. I knew I’d researched it at some point, and I knew the title of the Note, but where the Note lay in the “stack?” That was a mystery. Then came the realization that I was coming across the same dog breeds over and over – with no desire to cover the same territory. But THOSE Notes lay buried even DEEPER. And while flipping through physical notecards would take longer than scrolling through a screen, Evernote wasn’t making my job easier.

Because I failed.

If I took a few extra moments after finishing each assignment to type in a few tags, I could simply pull up the entire list and then view the Notes I needed. The option sits at the bottom, waiting happily for input each time a Note’s created. You can throw as many tags on as you want, with no character limits. A level of organization deeper than anything I’ve yet encountered, and I MISSED it!

So guess what I got to do – on my days off, no less. That’s right: go back and assign tags to every single Note. Over TWO HUNDRED Notes! We’re talking an entire weekend, stuck on the couch with my laptop, working through research – some of which I haven’t see in MONTHS. But I finally caught up on everything. (And, honestly, once I had a chunk of the tags set, I got to select them without a need to type them in) The work’s already paid off, too. Which is why I have a little Post-It reminder scribbled down to tag NEW research, preventing the need to repeat this insanity.

Organization exists to save you time and effort. Of course, if you ignore the options, you create MORE work for yourself. And when you’re a freelancer, there’s a GOOD chance you may find some themes cropping up time and again. Rather than redoing work you DON’T need to, tags can save you from going up the wall. It’s a huge time-saver. And when you find yourself filling up your calendar (something you’re probably going to strive for), every moment counts.

Or you can wait until you’re drowning in Notes and then decide you want that last little helper. It’s entirely up to you. Personally, I wish I’d thought ahead – like I usually do. (Self-sabotage is a tricky slope!)

2020 in Review

2020 in Review

2020 switching to 2021
Image by sarajulhaq786 from Pixabay

Not many people have warm fuzzy emotions related to 2020. Odds are, you’re one of the majority counting down the seconds until we punt this year out the door. (And cringing in anticipating of what 2021 will decide to bring) I won’t blame you; we got hit with a whopper of a year this cycle around the sun. And it’s easy to focus on the negative – particularly for pessimists (such as myself). That said, pockets of light DID make their appearance this year. After all, I got married this year.

That wasn’t the only positive, though. This was the year I stepped into my forever dream of writing. And while I braced myself for failure when I walked through that door, I succeeded beyond my expectations. That isn’t to say I’m not one of the people shoving 2020 out the door (with a shotgun, if necessary), but I can’t hate it 100% – more in the realm of 95%.

Which is why I’ve decided to do a neat little year-in-review round-up of my writing. Not to brag, but to demonstrate how far I came from the start of this little freelance writing career. Also, it gives me a starting point going into 2021. (If you can’t continue to do better, what’s the point?) Honestly, it shocked me when I started looking at the numbers:

Freelance

  • Clients: 17
  • Articles Written: 194
    • Byline: 130
    • Ghostwritten: 60
  • Edited: 3

Reading

  • Books Read: 57
    • At least – I didn’t start tracking and writing reviews on Goodreads until the spring, so there’s a good chance I mis-remembered my timeline from the beginning of the year

Speculative Fiction

  • Short Stories Written: 8
  • Submissions: 34
  • Rejections: 27
    • Rejections with Personal Letters: 6
  • Publications: 0

I won’t deny 2020 WASN’T the year I expected. From the beginning, it threw me for a loop. And I experienced plenty of downturns and needed to make adjustments I didn’t anticipate. I could sit in the corner and refuse to acknowledge it’s presence in the calendar. Or I could look at everything I accomplished DESPITE what was going on.

And while I’m the furthest thing from an optimist, I’m going to stick to the latter. I amazed myself this year. And I have every intention of doing better in 2021 – no matter what it decides to throw in my direction.

Less Than Smart

Less Than Smart

Explosion
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Have you ever watched wedding shows and laughed at the couples for their decisions? Do you think you could make better choices? That you’re smart enough to plan things differently and avoid certain pitfalls or mistakes? Maybe you’re in the middle of planning a wedding right now, and you have notebooks and binders full of lists, diagrams, tabs, and contingencies (not a bad idea given the current Apocalypse situation the world finds itself in). You and your potential spouse are intelligent, and you’re determined to prove yourselves smarter than all of those people.

Been there, done that – failed epically.

Our wedding was November 14th. And while I will admit the ceremony and reception went off without a hitch (okay, tiny hitch – he forgot his vows downstairs and had to run down to get them), everything leading up to those hours? Colossal disaster. And definitely not in any of the notebooks or plans. Which came as a complete shock because we were those people: convinced we were smarter than everyone else out there and capable of defeating the wedding misery bug. We’d laughed at so many people, taken so many notes, anticipated so many potential problems. We honestly thought we’d prepared for the worst – and that includes the Zombie Apocalypse.

No matter what you do or how much you think you’re ready, you can NEVER out-smart a wedding disaster. No one, it turns out, is that smart. Things you never thought of or anticipated WILL go wrong, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. (Well – cry; you can cry. A lot) We learned that the hard way – over and over the entire week before that ceremony. And the irony is everyone chose to tell us that – the DAY OF.

We thought we’d found the answer to avoiding stress – even in the face of increasing COVID-19 numbers. I mean, there was stress leading up to the week of the wedding, and I’m surprised I wasn’t bald, but we assumed that was normal. It was all going to be worth it, though, to have everything locked down and in place. Our planning was going to pay off and allow us to settle down and find relaxation. I mean, how many people have a week to get ready for their wedding day? It was brilliant.

In theory…on paper…

Our first stress-free day happened when we got home – three days AFTER the wedding. When there was just the two of us and the FurKids. (And, considering we were looking at leftover food stuffed into our fridge, there was some lingering stress) Our sheer “brilliance” found us stressed out, miserable, and regretting the decision to HAVE a wedding the remainder of the week. (Please note: WEDDING, not marriage) And there were notebooks, binders, lists – the whole shebang. We were SO intelligent.

You can’t plan for everything – no matter how hard you try. NO ONE is smart enough to pull off perfection (and anyone who claims so is lying through their teeth). Things WILL go wrong (sometimes spectacularly), and you have to let them. A horrible thing for a perfectionist to admit (and accept), but it’s the truth.

Did the ceremony involve laughter? Yeah – not always where I thought it would, but yeah. (I knew I should have made someone ask him to check for those vows) Were there tears? Yes – but they were the ones I’d hoped for. Did the music changes happen properly? Nope – but it was okay.

Did we get to eat at the reception? Damn straight. (Even if it wasn’t much since I felt sick after the preceding week of hell) Were we so happy to see friends we haven’t seen in ages? You better believe it – even if it was behind masks. Was I bummed the music ended up overrun? Yeah – I worked hard on that playlist. Did it break my heart to see people leave? Of course – I have no idea when I’ll get to see them again.

Will I ever do this again?

Not on your fucking life.

Weddings are a living nightmare – the people who tell you that aren’t lying. There’s nothing wrong with the Justice of the Peace. Given a second chance, I’d skip it. Correction, I don’t want to skip seeing the people I haven’t, but the other stuff? Yeah – out the door. It wasn’t worth it.

You can’t plan for everything, no matter how smart you think you are. I wish I could sit here and tell you differently (that was the original plan). Chaos theory works. If you can accept that, then have at it.

Ghosting (for Writers)

Ghosting (for Writers)

Ghost hand prints
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

What do writers want more than anything else in the world? To see our work published. To run around and wave a book or magazine and point to our name on the cover or below an article. (It’s harder to wave the internet around, but when you work in online formats, you try to do the same) That’s the dream – to have the world think your writing is worthy.

Why else would we work day and night at our craft?

Which is why it can sound bizarre, crazy, or even counter-intuitive for a writer to sit here and tell you, you may have to work as a ghostwriter a time or two in your career before that magical byline happens.

What’s a Ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter, to be blunt, is a writer who does the work and receives none of the credit. Your writing goes up on another site, often under the guise of another person entirely. Occasionally, it even gets attached to another author’s name (which SUCKS!). You have no rights to the work, and (most of the time) you can’t include the work in the your portfolio – no matter how fantastic the piece might have been.

Some clients specifically label a job as “ghostwriting,” while others skip the step, and you find out down the line as your name disappears from the posts. (Reading contracts closely is always a good clue)

Sounds awful, right?

Why Ghostwrite

So why in the world would an intelligent, aspiring writer EVER agree to do such a thing? Because it’s WORK! Even if your name isn’t attached to it, your voice, style, and quality gets out there for people to read. You may need to work within a specific framework, but your voice always shows through. No one else writes the way you do – no matter what. The more you write, the more people read, the more they put 2 and 2 together.

Also, as you continue to do a good job and build a solid reputation, the more clients start to contact you. A healthy job satisfaction with positive reviews attracts new clients. They aren’t going to worry whether you have your name plastered all over; they want to know you’re reliable and competent. THAT matters more and more, especially as plenty of “freelance writers” out there feel quantity matters more than quality. If you stand out for solid, dependable work, you attract MORE work.

And some clients ARE willing to let you use that ghostwriting in your portfolio. They may ask for specific reference links, but if you’re allowed to keep it and hand it to future clients? That’s worth it, isn’t it? I’ve had a couple of clients who allowed me to do so, and it built up my portfolio nicely, especially in the beginning.

Staying Humble

Do I ENJOY writing without credit? Of course not. Who wants to do something and not get the credit for the hours they spent researching, writing, reviewing, and editing? However, it’s reliable work. Some of my highest bonuses have come from ghostwriting work. And it’s WORK. I’m not foolish enough to call myself a bonafide success and demand that I get a byline every time I turn around. (That’s how you STOP getting work)

Whether my name appears under the title or not, everything I work on SOUNDS like my writing. I have a distinct style and way of writing, and it comes across no matter the topic. As every assignment goes out and spreads through the internet, people start to get a feel for my voice. They recognize MY writing – even without my byline. That’s how I view ghostwriting.

It keeps me grounded. It reminds me to stay smart and breathe when a new contract comes up devoid of credit. And it makes that byline work all the sweeter.

If I never did any ghostwriting, I wouldn’t be the freelancer I am today – because I’d likely still be scrambling for work. Everyone starts somewhere. So before turning into a writing snob, stop and think through both sides.

Writing is writing. No one else will sound like you – and THAT’S what matters the most.

Skipping the Free Lane

Skipping the Free Lane

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Let me preface this post by reiterating a simple statement: I have the best job in the world. I wouldn’t trade it for ANYTHING. After all, I took the time last week to explain why freelancing is the most amazing concept in the world. But, in all fairness (that’s such a terrible concept, isn’t it?) I now need to bring the excitement level down a few notches.

That’s right, lasers and jellybeans, it’s time for the crash. (Feel free to boo – I know you want to)

Why You May NOT Want to Freelance

No one likes to think about the “negative” side of things. And I want to make sure I clarify that these little snags aren’t necessarily BAD – they’re just less glamorous than the shiny bubbles I mentioned before. If you can swallow them, then you’re good to go. I just have this obligatory, guilty conscience prodding me to make sure I put ALL of the information out there. (That tiny creature in the back of the mind is annoying, by the way)

1. Organize or Die

Remember getting to stand on your own? No boss except you? That means all responsibility also falls to you. No one else keeps your shit together. Assignments come with deadlines, some come with templates, and all come with specifications. You have to keep track of ALL of those details. Slip up, and you’ll screw an article. Unhappy clients don’t pay you. If you’re part of a job board such as Upwork, those clients submit poor ratings that get published on your profile for potential clients to view. Guess how many want to hire someone with a poor performance review?

You can’t be the kind of person who “wings it.” You’ll end up overwhelmed and sink FAST. I use a TON of tools to keep my work streamlined:

  • Color-coded white board calendars
  • Excel spreadsheet of ALL assignments (also color-coded)
  • Evernote
    • Every client has a notebook
    • Each assignment is an individual notecard
    • All mandatory information gets bolded at the top
    • I create a checkbox with due dates (and cards are in order of due times)

Color-coding assignments by client makes my life a THOUSAND times easier. A quick glance at the calendar tells me who’s work is due when. The system allows me to usually finish my work early. I’ve definitely never missed a deadline. Can you hire a virtual assistant to handle all of this for you? Sure – but that’s money out of your pocket. The choice is yours.

I don’t have a 100% satisfaction rating and a solid string of five-star reviews for nothing.

2. Paperwork

You WILL need to do homework. That means investing in some books. If you can, talking with people who’ve done the groundwork helps, too. Freelancing is WORK. That means filing paperwork. Why? Because the government still wants taxes. And guess who has to file them? That’s right – you. You’re your own boss, remember? No one else is going to do it for you.

I lucked out. An awesome friend dumped two vital books in my lap and shoved me off the cliff as a start. I also had friends and family with their own businesses. They gave me the information I needed to set up my sole proprietorship. Every city and state is a little different, so make sure you look up the rules where you live. Just remember, as the money rolls in, YOU have to set aside the tax portion. YOU have to keep track of your client contracts. YOU have to be ready to juggle all of those W-2s come tax time (or fork over more cash for an accountant to do so).

It sounds overwhelming, and if you don’t do your homework, it WILL be. Once you have the basics under your belt, you’ll be fine. But you don’t have a boss or corporation to handle that pesky paperwork for you anymore. And when you’re used to someone else handling the tedious chores, it can get irritating.

3. Got a Healer?

Know what else you sacrifice as a freelancer? Insurance. Well, in theory. Basically, you just lose the comfort of a job that COMES with insurance. Freelancers don’t have a cushy life, much as society likes to think we do. In fact, if you poll most writers, they’re rampant with chronic illness. Most artists, in general, suffer from chronic disease and even cancer. And we don’t have the safety net of job-funded health insurance.

You have a few options:

  • Get a bubble (just kidding)
  • Find insurance on your own (watch your pennies)
  • Get on your spouse’s/partner’s insurance
  • Roll the dice and hope you never need insurance (may the odds be ever in your favor)
  • Start a GoFundMe

This is one of the biggest drawbacks to being a freelancer. Because healthcare in the U.S. SUCKS! Even WITH insurance, health costs get ridiculous. And if you fall ill and can’t complete your work? You’re out income. It’s a dangerous game. You need to take care of yourself (which is why you get my Dead Pool posts). And, honestly, you need to find a way to get yourself insurance. The risk is too high.

4. Motivation

You’re the boss. No one can MAKE you do the work. Except you. If you don’t “feel like it,” nothing gets done. Which means you don’t complete your assignments, and you don’t get paid. No biggie. Freelancers can’t have “off days.” You can’t submit sub-par work. If you aren’t at your best, you have to step up and tell a client you need more time. It requires a level of frank honesty that you didn’t have to present at other jobs. (Face it – were you always as sick as you claimed? I know for a fact people I worked with lied through their teeth)

You don’t want your reputation to slip. Your work is YOU. You’re representing yourself on a public platform in a way no other job really does. And lazing around doesn’t work. No one’s going to walk through your office and bang on the desk to urge you to get to work. (Okay, so I have a tiny demon that jumps on my desk, but it’s not really motivating)

You have to have an inner drive to get up and work every day (or whatever you set your schedule to). You need to tackle every assignment with the same level of enthusiasm. If you can’t, don’t accept the work. It’s better to turn a job down then submit half-assed crap.

5. What’s a Vacation?

Surprise! Freelancers don’t get time off. Not officially, anyway. No paid vacation, no paid sick leave. Sorry. You DO make your own schedule, so you can elect to take time off whenever you want. You just won’t get paid for that break. So consider those vacations wisely.

If you’re a writer, you CAN use trips to a certain advantage. For instance, you can pitch a story to a magazine centering around the location, the activities you’re planning, etc. The fact you’re not asking them to foot the bill for the trip AND already planning to have boots on the ground helps to sell the story. You just need to make sure you choose the appropriate market and find a unique angle for the story. And you need to realize there’s a good chance they’ll reject the pitch.

Tempering the Excitement

Freelance writing IS the best thing that ever came into my life. It just came with strings attached. (Newsflash: everything does) If you want to follow your freelance passion, make sure you shine a light on EVERY aspect of your chosen path. If you know where the pit traps are, you’ll be better for the journey. You may still fall into them, but you’ll have a better chance of climbing out the other side.

Freedom!

Freedom!

Freelance Writer Needs
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I won’t lie: I have the best job in the entire world. In my down time, I marvel that it took me so long to get my act together and start on this path.(Here’s a huge secret, lasers and jellybeans: if you have a dream – GET TO IT!) That’s how fantastic my life is. And, so , out of purely educational purposes, I’m going to run through all of the reasons you might consider making a similar career choice.

Why You Want to Be a Freelance Writer

When I first ventured into the freelance world, I wrote a sample blog article about working from home. Of course, now most people are pros at working from home. That ISN’T one of the points I’m going to hit on (exactly), though it’s certainly a perk. Nope, I have five other reasons to delve into.

1. You Get to be You

While I fully admit I’ve never worked in the food service industry (which is for the best, as I lack the grace and dexterity required), I’ve worked in most other industries in the past. They all have one thing in common: soul-sucking requirements placed by management. Uniforms, rules about tattoos/piercings/hair, and restrictions on office decor. It’s conformity at it’s worst.

When you freelance, all of those little nit-picky details float away. Case in point: for work today, I’m wearing Harley Quinn socks, comfy shorts, and a Bruni tanktop. (And before you snicker about my being a slob, all of them have purple on them – so there) The majority of my clients communicate via direct messaging or email. Which means I have the freedom to dress exactly as I want. My personality gets to shine. I can experiment with whatever hair color I want and play around with my pixie cut. I tossed out my boring, practical tennis shoes in favor of adorable Demonia Cult shoes. My geeky wardrobe might raise eyebrows out in public, but it makes me happy and keeps me smiling.

My office is ME. (I promise, photos will come as soon as the new prints I ordered arrive and get framed) Oh, sure, I have reference books on my shelves, and there are sticky notes, notebooks, my whiteboard calendars, and pens (well, at least one that Tonks hasn’t stolen) present at all times. But I also have tiny stuffed animals, Funko POP! figurines, shark teeth, and signed photos and posters from my theatre days. I don’t have to suffer with the decor foisted upon me by others. I get to decide what I want to have around me, channeling my creativity. It’s the best kind of freedom!

2. You’re the Boss

You decide who you want to work with. At this point, my work schedule is full. (I’m not exaggerating, either. My calendars – yes, I had to break down and buy a second one so I have two months up at a time – have up to three assignments due every day) While I still duck onto the job boards and submit proposals here and there, a lot of my work now comes in through invitations. (Awesome feeling, by the way) I make the calls on what I accept.

If you don’t want to work for a certain price, you can make that call! If you don’t want to accept a job, you have that choice! You hold the power to make all of those decisions! There’s no weight sitting on your shoulders, telling you you have to do something because…well, you can fill in the blanks. If you aren’t comfortable, or you feel something’s off, you have the right to step back and say, “No.” It’s the most liberating feeling ever!

Even better, for people like me who demand nothing less than perfection for themselves, freelancing grants you to outlet you always wanted. Clients WANT the best, and they respond to the exacting standards you set for yourself. I have a 100% satisfaction rating on Upwork (one of the job platforms for freelancers). I’m damn proud of that rating, too. I’ve rejected job offers that prioritized quantity over quality. I don’t compromise my standards, and I can do that because I’M THE BOSS!

3. NO Co-Workers

Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration. After all, I have Assistants that wander into the office and interrupt my work every day. However, they’e not on the payroll.

However, in general, those obnoxious people you want to throttle on a daily basis? Yeah, they don’t exist! People who get away with breaking rules that you get slammed for, people who sit around on their ass all day while you get sniped at for breathing for 5 minutes, and people who lie through their teeth to get out of work? Not here! It’s just you, baby! You can stretch out and breathe in the freedom of not having to deal with those irritations ever again.

This goes in conjunction with being your own boss. You don’t have to deal with the inequality inherent in the workplace. While a client may employ more than one freelancer, odds are you won’t interact with them or even speak with them. (You may never even know who they are) Even if you exchange messages, they don’t share your workspace. You can always let messages pile up while you work and answer them when you’re finished. (The equivalent of a “mute” button you wish existed in the real world)

4. 9 to Whatever

Freelancers create their own schedule. Yes, you have to meet deadlines set by your clients. You negotiate a lot of those deadlines in the first place, though. (And, most of the time, they’re a day and not a time) As far as WHEN the work happens, that’s up to you. Want to work through the wee hours of the night? Go for it! Want to stick to standard daylight hours to match a family member? No problem. Want to skip a day? No one’s going to say anything (provided you hand work assignments in on time).

You’re in control of YOURSELF. (I know, it sounds crazy, right? Almost like you’re an adult) I don’t work weekends. I save those days for family. Obviously, holidays are hit or miss (since I am working today – but I did my research ahead of time to minimize my working hours), but you can make a decision not to work holidays, if you choose. I’ll take the week of the wedding off, which means working my ass off right up to that point.

It’s a freedom you can’t find out of the freelance world. But it makes my life a MILLION times easier. I can schedule appointments whenever and work around them. I don’t have to go grovel to a manager and face an annoyed or disappointed look because *gasp* I needed to see the doctor. I don’t have to apologize to a frazzled receptionist when I have to beg for a weird appointment time to avoid inconveniencing my job. It’s one less stress in my life.

5. Personality’s a Plus

Does your regular job hand you binders of precisely how you’re supposed to behave? Do you get scripts of recitations to make sure everyone speaks and behaves exactly the same? You’re such good little sheep. Freelancers don’t have that problem. In fact, clients seek out freelancers precisely for their individual personalities! Ditch the uniformity and find your voice!

I get templates for some of my work. Clients want specific formats for the blog articles they request. Which I don’t mind, because I understand the look they’re adhering to. But within that framework, the voice and writing style are mine. It’s what the clients liked in my proposal (or the writing samples they clicked on in my profile). If they wanted a different voice, they would have hired someone else. Instead, they picked out my little quirky voice from the pack.

Instead of focusing on trying to follow the pack, you get to stand out. You WANT to stand out. Find your voice and make it sing. Figure out what makes your writing (or other freelance work) unique and play it up. The humor and geek culture references I always slipped into my narratives in other jobs (and caught flack for) are what earn me clients and five-star reviews now. You have an element of your personality destined to shine, and freelancing will turn it into a diamond.

Fly Your Freak Flag

Drone jobs suck the life out of you. I know – I’ve been there. Now I work my dream job, the job I assumed was always out of reach and impossible. It took NOTHING more than having the confidence to step up and say, “I want it.” It sounds insane, but it was that simple.

If your dream involves a freelance opportunity, then start exploring your options. You won’t regret it. Languishing in a job you hate – you’ll regret that forever.

End Reading Shaming

End Reading Shaming

My current To Be Read pile

My parents had a simple philosophy when we were growing up: “reading is reading.” They never confined us to a specific section of the bookstore, and they never took a book out of our hands because it wasn’t “age-appropriate.” (Unlike several librarians I can name) Which is why I bypassed what would now be considered the Young Readers section by the age of 8, moving on the Fantasy & Science Fiction section. (Young Adult wasn’t a thing back then)

I’ve held to that philosophy throughout my life. Simply put, I read what piques my interest. I don’t care what section the book comes from. Why should I? I write speculative fiction. My worlds don’t exist in reality. My ideas come from anything and everything. As such, I explore EVERY possibility. That means reading every possibility.

People give me the strangest looks in the store.

I grew up watching Anime. As such, I love Manga. Some I read because I loved the Anime and want to compare the original comic. (If you’ve only ever made fun of Sailor Moon, you don’t know the beauty you’re missing out on) Some are hauntingly bewitching in their art and make me cry no matter how often I read them (Full Moon o Sagashite). Others I’ve become so obsessed with, I’ve started learning Japanese because I can’t stand the fact I have to wait AN ENTIRE YEAR between volumes (Skip-Beat – my sister’s to blame for getting me started on that one).

Japan has light novels, which combine gorgeous drawings with writing. Anime usually follow these creations. They’re shelved in the same section, and I have a host of those I follow. Typically, they’re released faster than Manga, so my wait time is shorter. Sword Art Online was my first obsession here, and I’ve followed the series through multiple story arcs.

But I’m not a teenager, so people stare.

I write in the YA genre. Logic says read what you write. Okay, fuck logic – there’s amazing YA out there. The majority of what I read these days is YA. I stalk certain authors (Cassandra Clare, Rin Chupeco, Sarah J. Maas, S.J. Kincaid, Merissa Meyer) through Amazon so I know when their books are hitting the shelves. While that section isn’t my first stop in the store, I do always end up there eventually. I take risks on new authors in the YA section – something I’m usually loathe to do in other sections. I can’t explain why other than to say the blurbs are more appealing and the cover art is better. (I don’t listen to book reviewers – sorry) The majority of authors I buy hardback books from are YA authors.

However, not a young adult, so people give me strange looks.

And don’t get me started on the alarmed looks when I hit up the Young Readers section. Let me explain something to the uneducated: a book is considered a “Young Reader” because of the age of the characters in the book. That’s it. Which is why His Dark Materials is shelved there, despite the fact the religious debate and concept of duality in human nature are WAY over the heads of most children Lyra’s age. I re-read my copy and marvel every time at nuances I’ve missed (and laugh hysterically that I had to hunt the book down in that section – it is in the YA section now).

Have you ever been over there? There are ENORMOUS books over there! There are amazing books in that section! Read the blurbs sometimes. The worlds an characters – they’re phenomenal! Artemis Fowl is one of the best antiheroes I’ve encountered in a long time! If you skip the section because it’s next to Dr. Seuss (and, seriously, why are you NOT reading Dr. Seuss?), you’re missing out. Brave the looks and walk your butt over there.

Stop reading shaming!

READING IS READING! Where you pick up a well-written book shouldn’t matter. Comics (totally love Spider-Gwen/Ghost Spider and Harley Quinn) your thing? Fine! (If you feel a need to call them Graphic Novels to make yourself feel elevated, whatever works for you) Children’s books? Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is one of the best things I’ve ever read.

I don’t understand this need to put people in a box. Bookstores are OPEN. Libraries are OPEN. Stop shuttling people into sections like cattle. Let people explore and find new ideas, new authors. I put everything I read up on my Goodreads feed – I’m not ashamed! I’M A READER! I pull out anything and everything for my niece and nephew, exposing them to the best books that have crossed my paths. I want them to be readers, and I don’t want them to be afraid to explore.

If you’ve never left your “section” for fear of the LOOKS, try it. You’re missing out by confining yourself. Pick up a new book, a new author. You won’t regret it, I promise you.