Some of my friends who are writers or creatives have asked me how I get my freelance projects. I certainly don’t have an enormous roster of clients (hence, as I tell new people I meet when they ask what I do: “I’m ananny to support my freelance writing and editing career”), but those that I have are pretty regular, thankfully.
To be honest, I never thought I would even be freelancing. I heard nightmarish tales when I was in journalism school about pleading to publications for work, MAYBE getting assigned one story, if you even got a response at all, and never having a steady income. I always figured I would get an entry-level job at a magazine or other publication and work my way up. (Pop back a couple of blog posts to see how that plan turned out…)
When I learned in the spring of 2016 that John got into Vanderbilt’s business graduate program, I was ecstatic and terrified. I worked at a job I wasn’t crazy for at Dallas’ city magazine, where, ironically, I had dreamed of working for a couple years before snagging my position. Before that job, I had worked two others, one at a PR company and one at a startup, both in creative-ish roles that looked fantastic on paper but fell flat as soon as I sat down at my desk in front of a computer for eight hours a day. Turns out, I don’t enjoy sitting in front of a computer for eight hours a day.
After discovering I wasn’t happy or totally fulfilled at either of those first two jobs, going on to the third made me feel like that millennial. The “three jobs in one-and-a-half years after graduating” millennial. Yep, I was job-hopping with the best (worst?) of my peers. My first week at job number three, where I was navigating dozens of Excel spreadsheets and learning how to manage online voting systems for Best Doctors and Best Lawyers awards, left me feeling a bit trapped. I hated it — but how could I leave another job AGAIN? I would not only feel like that millennial; I knew I would be one, no question. And who the heck hires that millennial?
So, I stayed for a year and a half, until the news of John’s school admittance came. Hallelujah. Counting the weeks until our move, I knew I didn’t want to be staring at the clock until 5 o’clock at another desk, doing work that made my eyes bloodshot and my mind feel mushy by the end of the day. Freelance, I thought, is the way to go.
I ended up getting a remote copy editing job for Nashville’s local magazine, which I still have and adore. But that one check pays, oh, maybe a third of my bills. I emailed other publications, applied for freelance roles I found on LinkedIn and Indeed, and, on a whim, signed up for care.com, thinking I could at least babysit or nanny in the interim between moving and finding more writing work.
Once upon a time, I interned at a magazine in its editorial department. It was my senior year in college, which I like to think was just yesterday but, in reality, was nearly three years ago, and I was pretty sure I was winning at everything in life. I interviewed fun entrepreneurs and interesting professionals, wrote several articles a week, and was certain I was the next Diane Sawyer (print edition).
I wanted to work for the magazine more than anywhere else after I graduated — so badly that I even applied for the receptionist position, which made about no money and obviously had nothing to do with journalism. From my whopping seven hours a week spent in the office, I was positive the people and atmosphere were everything I could ever dream of in a first job environment. (Clearly seven weekly hours is enough to tell something like that, right?…)
It all seemed ideal, except for this one girl.
She was a full-time employee, and I worked with her on a couple fact checking assignments. I knew her job vaguely revolved around fact checking and data analysis within the editorial department, and I can clearly remember watching her walk down a hall one day with a sullen look on her face, a norm, and thinking to myself, I would hate to have her job.