Freelancing Isn't About Luck

Maggie the cat is curled up on my lap Maggie the cat is attacking my fingers as I attempt to type this, gazing at me and sighing, "Anthropomorphise me!" But I won't, today.

Maggie and I will have to work out a practical start-of-work schedule, which may be:
  • Open Laptop
  • Put kettle on
If she is not careful. 

See how I cleverly keep bringing the topic of this post back to WORK, despite myriad distractions of cuteness and claws in my thigh? 

As a freelancer, that's how you have to be. Cussed and Dogged and Stubborn as heck. There are always going to be distractions. I was looking at some famous writers'routines for inspiration recently, and thinking "Ha! These people don't have kids." But making excuses will bring only doom and dismay, my friends.

"A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper." -E. B. White

For the first half of last year, writing was on a ball. I overcame my fear of rejection slips, sort of, and sent out heaps of queries to all kinds of magazines and websites. In between, temporary jobs came along to help make ends meet. I got some really interesting writing jobs and have had articles and features in magazines! I call that SUCCESS! I even started designing a new website which I think is going to be pretty good. Then in July, I started a new temp job which became long term. Working full time, with a longish commute, as well as being a mum, meant I had to put many things on the back burner and just step back from freelancing. Frustrating, because if you don't keep that ball rolling you really have to make a big effort to get it going again. That's where doggedness and determination and all that come in.

So, it looks like my ongoing 'temp' job MAY become permanent. And I bit the bullet and told my manager that actually, I am a freelance writer and wasn't looking for a full-time permanent job, even though I love the job itself and the people I work with. He mentioned job sharing, where I divide the work week in half with another lady, and we will see. Job sharing would be perfect for me, with a steady salary and a few days a week to focus on writing. If all my wishes don't come true with this, I will go back to temping on and off, or look for a part time job. Either way, I am all ready to get my head back into my writing in a big way this year. This month, even. I'm really excited about this! But I know that excitement, like luck, is not going to make the writing happen. So here's my advice on making it happen (again):
  • Browse magazine stands and see what's up. Buy a few, bring them home and make notes of who the features editor is, the style of writing and length of articles. Tear pages out, scribble on them and pin them up if needed. 
  • Get a great reference book or two: I just bought The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2013 and Children's Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2013, which are for the UK market. I recommend them both! In the USA, you can have a look at Willings Press Guide 2012: 3 Volume Set; The World's Leading Media Directory:United Kingdom, Europe, and World your library, because it is fiendishly expensive. A thesaurus is worth its weight in gold, and if you are uncertain of your grammar skills you need a good grammar guide. Of course, you should have a dictionary as well. 
  • Work out a routine and REALLY try to stick to it. Know yourself: Are you creative in the mornings? Then that's when you should do your writing. Save the boring jobs, like checking emails and sending invoices, for afternoon. If your routine is not working then switch something around but don't let laziness, facebook or the CAT steer you off course. No one ever got rich and famous, or even managed to pay the bills, mooching about on facebook while curled up with the cat. Alas! 
  • Write, and write, and write. My muse has been asleep, and I have had to prod her mercilessly to get up and WRITE SOMETHING, anything! Blogging is good, because no-one really minds if you use lots of capital letters, or exclamation marks, or bullet points, or post attractive photos of your cat; unlike REAL writing, where all of those things are Instant Death to Articles. When you have got all of the exclamation marks and cat related news out of your system, you can sit down and write a sensible email to several features editors, outlining your brilliant idea for an article which would be perfect for their magazine. 
  • When people ask, say "I am a writer." Even if it makes you feel like a fraud and all you've written is letters to your grandmother and notices reminding your kids that we should ALWAYS put the toilet seat down. You have to fake it to make it. Convince yourself that you can do this, and then do it. Keep learning, studying and asking questions.  
Until one day, you go to out and see there, a glossy magazine WITH YOUR ARTICLE IN IT! On sale in a shop! You will pick it up and casually leaf through, giggling, and no-one around will know why, they will just think you are a weirdo. But it totally won't matter. 


Unknown said…
Great advice Nan. I've been thinking I'd like to give freelancing a try this year.
trash said…
Brilliant work my girl, chuffed for you.
Anonymous said…
Brava, Nan! Way to keep focused ad MAKE IT HAPPEN for yourself!
Good for you and good advice for writers, May you prosper in the New Year!
Ndinombethe said…
You're my hero xo - Tash
Nan Sheppard said…
Luna, DO IT!!