Friday, November 14, 2008

Confessions of a struggling start up freelancer

Finally, I'm able to do my first 'official' blogger post- one that isn't a previously written post migrated over from Wordpress.  The process was tedious and annoying, but ultimately, didn't take as long as I thought, and at least it's over.

I put off writing my first blogger post until all the ones from Wordpress had been migrated, in order, so as not to be confusing.  I'm glad I did.  Had I written this any time yesterday, this post would have been embarrassingly depressing and full of self pity.  I probably would have deleted this morning when I woke up.  I was feeling deeply despairing yesterday.

Truthfully, I don't feel much better today- but at least, I have a little more perspective.  The root of my despair is the creeping tendrils of self-doubt that I can make this work.  It began yesterday, mid-morning, when I found out that my main writing gig has 'reached the end of their budget for this round' and has no further work at this time.

I'm not even sure what that means- how long until the next 'round of budgets' starts up?  Will it ever?  I'm thankful for the opportunity I had to do the work that I did and said so via email to my contact with the company.  Now I'm in a bind, but it's not their fault- I committed the cardinal sin of freelancing: I got dependent on one job and ceased trying to diversify.

You see, I thought this rentwiki assignment was going to last a lot longer.  There were two other writers contributing to the site, but their contributions were small and slow-going.  I seemed to be the only writer giving it full priority.  I did the mental math, multiplying the number of neighborhoods still needing to be reviewed, times the amount being paid per wiki, and I saw nearly $10,000 worth of work still needing to be completed.  I felt like this assignment was my safety net- my guarantee.  Even though I hadn't found any other 'major' assignments, I didn't have to panic- I'd at least be making what I'd computed as my minimum needed, for a couple of months, thanks to this gig.  I thought.

Last night I couldn't work on anything.  I stared listlessly at my screen.  My head pounded dully.  All seemed lost.  I got to the point where I couldn't even look at the screen anymore.  I curled up, fetally, on my couch and squeezed silent tears onto the microfiber.  I fell asleep with my head in my husband's lap, and it was a fitful sleep, jarred into a painfully half-awake state with each tiny shift or soft noise.  I felt heavy and sick and bewildered.

Now that I've woken up to a new, sunny day, I don't feel as hopeless, and I'm trying to think positively.  I know I lost sight of the bigger picture last night.  Sometimes, it's just too hard not to.  I quit a decently paying, steady job to take a blind leap into an uncertain field.  In the few weeks I have been plugging away at the freelancing, I've come across things that have scared me-
  • sites and clients that expect high quality, researched work for less than one cent a word (check out Textbroker and read what some clients expect you to do for seventy cents per 100 words)
  • Post after post on Craigslist of clients expecting you to write for free to 'gain exposure' (I've found plenty myself on the SA Craigslist, and Deb at FWJ does a great series on these as well, like here)
  • Doses of reality like these excellent pieces on how there isn't enough time in the day for a freelancer, and the realities of the blogger payscale 
  • Sites where freelancers compete for jobs, and I'm stuck in the unenviable position of competing with, on the one hand, people with tons of experience who are already highly rated on that site, and on the other hand, folks from outsourcing countries whose cost of living is completely different, who are willing to work for $3/hour.  (If you think I'm kidding, spend some time looking at provider profiles on ODesk and see how many well-written, educated people from other parts of the world have their rate listed at $5/ hour or less)
It's enough to make even the most confident person a little scared.  I wouldn't have quit my job to start freelancing if we couldn't afford to live on just one income for a while, so it's not the money, exactly, that's worrying me.  It's  the fact that there's been very few times in my life that I haven't been successful at things I've taken on.  I don't want this endeavor, one closer to my heart than most others, to be the exception.

Yesterday, I mourned the fact that things haven't fallen perfectly, immediately into place for me.  Today, I recognize the irrationality of thinking that they would.  

It's time to get back on the horse.  I'm going to redouble my efforts, toss my net far and wide, explore, and network, and do it all with the joyousness that I should rightly feel, knowing I have the luxury of pursuing my dream, and the freedom to fail a little bit before I have to admit defeat and crawl back to corporate America.  

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