Guest Blog Post: “Newbie: Wordslinger’s Freelancing Odyssey”

I’m Erin Griggs, and I’d like to welcome you to my new ongoing series, ”Newbie:  Wordslinger’s  Freelancing Odyssey,” hosted by Freelancers University, about my experiences in my first year as a full-time freelancer. I hope it will be informative and entertaining. WARNING: in this series of posts, there will be geeky references, big words, sarcasm and perhaps occasional profanity. (If you, too, are a full-time freelancer, you will understand the impetus for the latter two items…)

(Note: “newbie” is slang for a newcomer or novice to some field or activity, and it’s a term used a lot in the tech/gamer worlds. You might have heard the term “nOOb” also, but that’s a more derogatory term, as a newbie is just new to things, but willing to learn, and a nOOb is new, thinks they know everything already and is generally a pain in the. . . neck to more experienced persons.)

“Go Ahead and Jump:  Making the Leap into Full-time Freelancing”

–by Erin Griggs

“I LIKE BIG WORDS AND I CANNOT LIE!”
I’ve been a word geek my entire life. This isn’t an exaggeration; my entire family reads constantly and quickly; heck, my little sister ended up as an academic librarian and I ended up getting a B.A. and a M.A. in English. Mostly, I’ve been a teacher (college and high school) but I’ve worked in many positions in which I had the opportunity to help people; I worked in two domestic violence shelters, did a year in AmeriCorps, worked as an editor for a high-end resume writing and job search services company, worked in a shelter for homeless teenagers and ran an undergraduate tutoring service for the University of Kansas. I’ve been around.

But nothing quite seemed right. Don’t get me wrong; I love teaching writing and literature, but it seemed that I was doing less teaching and more administratrivia, which is not what I signed on for. I liked many aspects of the various positions I held (I’m a polymath; I like to learn about almost anything, and I took something of value away from each and every professional experience I’ve held) but not one position screamed at me, “This is it; this is something I would do even if I weren’t getting paid for it, I love almost every aspect of it so much!”

And while I worked my behind off and excelled at almost every job I’ve had, I also have chronic insomnia (actual medical condition; I could go on and on about it, but I’m talking almost 20 years of medical intervention. There’s a reason sleep deprivation is used as a torture technique) and working a set schedule — especially, as a high school teacher, an early set schedule — was a setup for utter misery.

Not “Hot for Teacher”
In spring of 2011, I knew I wasn’t going to be returning to my position as a high school and dual-credit English teacher at the school at which I was working at the time. I’d been an adjunct instructor teaching college courses, and that wasn’t what I wanted either; for people like me with only an M.A., adjuncts live in a state of permanent uncertainty from semester to semester, work 80+ hr. weeks (if they’re lucky enough to have scored enough courses at enough schools) and get terrible pay with no benefits. And they usually don’t get the juicy classes, either.

I wanted, after 16 years of being a professional, to have a job that catered to my strengths and allowed me to work with, instead of against, my weaknesses. I just didn’t know where I could find that most elusive of creatures: the perfect job.

I am extremely lucky in that I have several friends who are published authors. I beta-read (this is basically unpaid developmental editing and critiquing of stories and novels) for several, and while e-mailing one of these friends in February of last year, I wrote about my frustrations. My friend basically whacked me upside the head with a clue-by-4: “Why don’t you go freelance? You’re a kick-ass editor, you’re a damned fine writer and you have excellent organizational skills. You have a network of contacts in publishing and you’re smart as hell. FREE. LANCE.”

And the more I thought about it (and researched it, because that’s how I roll), the more and more I thought to myself, “This could really be the way to go. This. . . could be IT.”

I pondered the pros and cons; I spoke with my husband. I did more research. I harassed other author friends and friends who owned businesses, and ran my ideas past my dad, who is one of the most pragmatic people I know. I ran the numbers. (Scary, but doable.) I took stock of my skills that weren’t related to writing and editing. I thought about equipment I had versus equipment I needed, and thought about how to integrate freelancing with my family life.

By March, I had roughly 1 zillion bookmarks on Firefox, 200 e-mail and phone conversations, 30 books on various aspects of small business start-ups, freelancing, accounting, marketing and HTML checked out of the library, and about 20 lists on pro and cons, financial considerations and needs, and the various aspects of business I would need to learn and monitor.

Freelancing: “Livin’ La Vida Loca”
I made my decision. I was going to go for it. Full-on, no stop, jump from the plane and GO FOR IT.

I knew it would be a lot of work, but I’m used to that (average workload for a high school English teacher? 80 hours a week.) I knew that my salary for the first year (at least) of freelancing wouldn’t be commensurate with what I was making as a teacher — and make no mistake, if I had not had the great good luck to (1) be married to a person with a steady job with benefits who (2) totally supported my decision, I would not have been able to become a full-time freelancer. It is not a decision to make lightly.

Full-time freelancing takes an incredible amount of work, has a huge learning curve (especially if you don’t have a business background) and, for me as well as for most new freelancers, the pay when you first start out is. . . well, let’s just say it’s not fantastic and not consistent.

I officially launched Erin Griggs: Wordslinger, a writing and editorial services provider freelancing business, as a sole proprietorship on July 11, 2011. I had an irritable laptop, a WordPress website, four style guides, the 2011 Writer’s Market, seven dictionaries, rudimentary HTML skills and a list of contacts.  And  a sense of dogged determination and my spicy, spicy brains.

“Rockin’ in the Free(lancing) World”
How has it been so far? There’ve been ups. There have been downs. There have been quiet moments of dejection when I was sure I would need to get at least a part-time job to help support my family. But at eight months and eight days into officially being a full-time freelancer, I am happier than I have ever been, and things are going pretty well for me.

Has it been easy? Not at all. I work all the time, whether it’s on client projects, administrative tasks, self-education or marketing. But it’s been right for me. And I am extremely happy with my decision.

Freelancing isn’t the right choice for everyone. It has been for me. And maybe it’s the right choice for you, too.

What spurred you into taking the leap into freelancing? Or if you’re on the cusp of making the jump, what’s encouraging you to do so … or what’s holding you back?

Discuss in the comments!

–Erin

Next post:  I’ll write about the steps I took to get started before I had my July 11th launch date. Trust me, there’s plenty of prep you need to do before you start handing out business cards and hustling for gigs.

Erin Griggs owns and runs Erin Griggs: Wordslinger. She is a multifaceted writer (articles, resumes, copywriting and much more) and provides editorial services for authors, businesses and individuals. In addition to this, she is a proud geek, organizational genius and take-charge kinda woman. You can check out her LinkedIn profile  or contact her at wordslinger@eringriggs.com or as @Wordslingeuse on Twitter.

2 Responses to “Guest Blog Post: “Newbie: Wordslinger’s Freelancing Odyssey””

  1. Susann
    June 2, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Hey! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

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  1. Guest Blog Series — Freelancer’s University: “Go Ahead and Jump: Making the Leap into Full-time Freelancing” | - April 20, 2012

    [...] Just want to ALERT THE MEDIA — well, maybe not go that far — but definitely let you know that Freelancer’s University has asked me to write a series ofguest blogs for them detailing my first year as a full-time freelancer, and the first post is up on … [...]

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