Surviving As a Freelancer: Tough But Not Impossible.

freelancerYou know how they say you shouldn’t quit your day job to become a full-time writer? Well, last Thursday at David Wolinsky’s workshop at “Open Books Chicago” on freelancing I met three(!) people who did exactly the opposite – they quit their well-paid corporate jobs to pursue another career: writing. I left empowered and encouraged to start investing more in the dream of mine: dedicate all my time to writing for kids and freelancing as a travel journalist rather than working for someone 9-5.

David started with describing things as they are in a freelance world: not promising at all. He said that nowadays people think that “freelancing” means writing for free. It’s not a joke, and some editors hope in the future that’s how it will be. Layoffs, buyouts and other scary things like content aggregators(special software that accumulates data from various websites for an article thus eliminating a necessity to hire a person to do a research and all “writing” in this case comes to “content architecture”-combining pieces of already written information) await everyone who dares to enter the industry.

So, what if you still want to write? It’s tough, but not impossible!

-Find gigs, not assignments. It’s the closest thing to security freelancers can get.

– Cultivate variety, meaning:where you’re working; are you doing it full-time? subjects you’re covering.

-Start publishing your stuff online. The more, the better.

– Internships are another great way to enter the industry.

– Set goals, deadlines, specific places to write for, certain amount of money you want to earn(pocket-money? legit second income?).

David stressed that to get started in a freelance world, it’s crucial to find people whose work you respect and reach out via email and let them know you enjoy their writing. It can look something like this(from David’s presentation):

SUBJECT: RE: Your (Smithsonian list) on (tall building)

Dear Gervasius,

My name is(your name) and I’m a writer and a (day job) in Chicago. I came across your(publication piece) and just wanted to let you know (your opinion). I especially enjoyed your (observation) that the (Superdome) resembled (a can opener). I hadn’t thought of it before, but now it’s all I can think of!

Keep up the good work!

Thanks!

(Reader Readerson).

Give them 7-10 days and if they don’t answer-move on.Most probably they will if you mention that you are a writer as well:) Networking is a key in the freelancing world. They might get you in touch with an editor whom you can pitch.

David also mentioned a great way to find out what magazines are currently interested in:  they have a Media Kit link on their websites where they mention a list of things they plan to publish soon.

Thank you “Open Books Chicago” and David for conducting such a useful workshop!

By the way, my first volunteering field trip with “Open Books” will take place this upcoming Thursday, May 24th and I will keep you posted.

For all those who want to make an impact on a child’s life through literacy promotion and who live in Chicago, click this link and enroll in volunteering with “Open Books” now!

Finding time to write is easy as one, two, three!

7-1-12Recently I visited an open house presentation at Story Studio Chicago – a growing community for writers in Greater Chicago Area which focuses on creative and business writing classes as well as customized writing instruction. This time a workshop was about how to find time to write for those who complain they are completely overwhelmed with other responsibilities in life. Our presenter shared three effective ways to do so:

1. Write in “wedges”. For instance, you have a goal to finish 90.000 words novel as soon as possible. You know that in one day you can complete a piece of 600 words. If you dedicate 5 days per week to your novel then you can have 3.000 words in a week. It will take 30 weeks(or 7.5 months) to finish 90.000 words manuscript. If you spend 2.5 months on revising then in a year your novel would be complete. 600 words a day should be easy for any writer and can be written anywhere from 20 min-hour. You can spend 10 minutes in the morning, lunch time, and evening writing 200 words every time. At the workshop we did a writing exercise to show that it’s possible to write 200 and more words in 10 minutes if you write non-stop. The main trick is not to pay attention to any distractions and not to take pen off the paper(or hands off laptop keyboard:).

2. Make yourself accountable for your writing progress. One way of doing this is to have a “writing buddy” –  a person who can supervise your writing process and make sure you stick to your goals, and, of course, read your work. Another way is to have a critique group once per week or three times a month. In this case you will enhance your writing discipline by making sure you have something to present at the next critique session.  As for me, my best friend and co-author of several pieces is my “writing buddy”. I tell her how much I want to finish in a week and she controls me by sending, hmm.. not friendly emails if I fail to do so:)

3. Create a rewards system. If you finished 3 chapters in a week and are satisfied with the results – treat yourself! Buy that dress you like, go to spa-salon or take a weekend trip. The most important thing is to keep yourself excited about completing your goals.