Will the World Spin Off Its Axis If I Take Time Off?

babyclothesI don’t like taking time off.

When I honeymooned with my husband in Mexico in the summer of 2007, I chastised him for bringing his laptop, then used it to periodically check in at work.

When I went to Europe for two weeks this past summer, I was ready to come home after two days. There were contracts I had to sign. Edits that had to be done. And I couldn’t stop thinking of all the teaching opportunities I was missing out on.

Several weeks ago, as I chatted with my writing partner via Skype, she told me that — once I popped out my baby this coming July — I should expect to not work for two months.

My head just about exploded. [Read more…]

Why Freelancing Is Like Juggling a Bunch of Flaming Chainsaws

flamejugglerI went full-time freelance almost six years ago, and I feel as if the entire expanse of it has been one big experiment in finding (and maintaining) the right balance.

And I’m not talking work/life balance. Please. Let someone else write 2,000 words about work/life balance, and whether or not I, as a woman, can “have it all.”

I’m talking about the balance between passion projects and bill-paying projects. The balance between regular clients and the freelance hustle. The balance between doing something for the bucks and doing something because it’s damn good fun.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that being a freelance writer has become tougher since I first started out.

Sure, there are increased opportunities: self-publishing, social media management, info-products, passive income, and guru-hood.

But strictly speaking, not all of these are writing gigs. In fact, most of them aren’t. And that’s the lament I’ve seen popping up on every single freelance forum on which I’m active: Can I still make a living as a freelance writer? Is it worth it to continue pitching the same old shit to publications with shrinking budgets? Should I just screw it all and go do something else? [Read more…]

Where the Magic Doesn’t Happen


My husband and I have been in our new house now for just over three months. And though the boxes have been unpacked, and the items inside (mostly) put away, things are not… quite… there yet.

Almost every room needs to be repainted (and, at the moment, the walls sport splotchy blobs of spackle). We need to de-texturize the ceilings in the living room, dining room, and family room. We need up rip up carpet and get the floors beneath sanded and re-finished. We need to replace the front door (which sits askew in its frame, lets in ALL the winter air, and pops open on its own when it’s not locked) and, in fact, need to eventually replace all the doors in the house. We need to get a hot water heater and extend the gas line, because 95 percent of our showers since we’ve moved in have been lukewarm to ice cold. And the list goes on.

In contrast, my new home office is fucking awesome. My dad helped me re-paint the walls a soothing gray. I singlehandedly ripped up the carpet, and then hired someone to sand and re-finish the floors the very next day. I bought a gorgeous, new desk, a matching filing cabinet, and a bookcase I lovingly caress at least once a day. I brought in my mother’s old typewriter, a globe covered in dragons, and other doo-dads and gee-gaws to make the room my own. I even hung a bulletin board / inspiration board. The only thing that’s missing is a purple, velvet, tufted chaise lounge for my “reading corner.”

When I had a housewarming party earlier this month, I told all of my guests that this was “the most important room in the house.”

“Have you been more productive in here?” they asked me, remembering my previous setup.

Well… no. [Read more…]

Bedazzle It! All the Extras Your Query Letter Needs

Query letters: They’re sort of my thing.

While many of my coaching clients seem to agonize over their query letters, perfectionism and fear keeping them from ever sending the damn things out, I actually enjoy writing them.

This nerd-tastic enjoyment is mostly thanks to some pretty fantastic teachers. Back in college, I took a professional writing class with Burton Klein, an adjunct professor at TCNJ who taught his students how to write cover letters that stood out. Later on, I took several continuing education classes with Susan Shapiro. She taught me everything I know about establishing a connection with editors.

Now, I’m someone who — according to my friends — “gives good email.”

Thank god. I’m pretty hopeless when it comes to in-person interaction.

I even offer a coaching package for those seeking out help with query letters in particular: Cover Letters: Quick, Easy & Awesome.

In the past, I’ve blogged about the basics of query letters: 1. Establish a connection. 2. Lay out your idea. 3. Sell yourself. 4. Wrap it all up. But is it really so simple?

Yes… and no.

To really set yourself apart, you should be adding in some extras. [Read more…]

How To Achieve Full-Time Success with Part-Time Hours

Forget grad school. As most of you know, I’m a huge proponent of learning by doing. Of course, before I do anything, I also typically read a shit-ton of books. (All of the education at a fraction of the cost!)

Back in 2007, it was Michelle Goodman’s The Anti 9-to-5 Guide that got me up and running as a full-time freelancer. Later on, I read My So-Called Freelance Life (also by Goodman) and wished I’d had it from the very beginning.

Last week, I speed-read Kelly James-Enger’s Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success and realized it was the book I should have had when the economy — and my business — first hit the skids. Luckily, no matter how long you’ve been freelancing, there’s always something to learn.

I’ve been reading Kelly’s blog — Dollars and Deadlines — for awhile now, and also recommend her book on ghostwriting and coauthoring — Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks — to just about every writer I come into contact with. So I was thrilled when I heard she had written a new book. In fact, I devoured the entire thing in two days, dog-earing pages on market research, story ideas, reprints, and contract templates.

What struck me the most, however, was that Kelly had created a level of success that allowed her to bring in a full-time income while working part-time hours.

Basically, my idea of perfection.

After the jump, Kelly is generous enough to share how you can do the same. [Read more…]

Create the Life You Want… Not the One You Think You Should Want

Almost two weeks ago, I was on the phone with a reporter from a national magazine, talking about solopreneurship and personal branding. We were having a lovely chat — though I felt like a bit of a spaz; that’s why I’m a writer, you guys — when he asked me about my income.

“I make about $30k a year,” I told him.

“You can live on that!?” he asked.

I mentioned that I was lucky enough to have a husband who made way more money than me, so that I could create a life in which I only worked part-time hours. I told him I was building a career in which I could stay home with my future (as-yet-unconceived) children and not take a huge, unprepared-for blow to my paycheck. And if I needed more money, I said, I could always hustle a helluva lot more instead of sitting back and letting the work come to me (which is my current, lazy-ass m.o.).

He asked me what I’d do if a media company offered me a staff position at $75k.

“I’d turn it down,” I said. “No question.”

“What about $100k?” he asked.

“Nope,” I said. “I never want to give this up.”

Two days later, my bread-winning husband lost his job. [Read more…]

Why You Should Change Your Definition of Success

I started freelancing full-time almost five years ago. At the time, success meant matching my previous income, and saying yes to every project that came my way. As a result, I found myself working nights and weekends, skipping meals, and pushing exercise to the very bottom of my to-do list, where it never got done.

These days, success means being pickier about projects, preparing home-cooked meals with my husband, and having time for both my personal book project and my daily yoga classes. I have the potential to make more money… but the other stuff comes first.

Which is why I love Laura Vanderkam‘s work. In both 168 Hours and her most recent book, All the Money in the World, she shows readers that they don’t necessarily need more time or money to achieve a successful and fulfilling life. They just need to know how to spend what they already have.

In this Q+A, Laura shows us how we should redefine success. [Read more…]

Freelancing and Yoga Go Together Like… Nutella and Pound Cake

I can't even do the pose pictured on my shirt without falling over.

Those of you who have been reading Freelancedom for awhile may have noticed a shift in tone recently.

Part of this has been due to a shift in focus, and in changing goals. Part of it has been due to the emotional/mental shift that comes with improved work/life balance, and with more consistent income (alleluia!).

But a big part of that shift has come from the fact that I now hit up my local yoga studio four to five days a week.

Is that crazy? Maybe. But I’ve come to realize that freelancing and yoga go together like Nutella and pound cake.

Let me explain. When I go to my morning and lunchtime yoga classes, I’m simultaneously pumped up for productivity and made more relaxed despite freelance-related stress. When I go to my evening class, focusing on the poses and meditating in savasana help me turn off my brain before bedtime. Yoga also helps me stretch out the muscles that perpetually ache after hours at the computer. And I’m healthier: mentally and physically. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this good without the help of mood-stabilizing medication.

In fact, yoga has become such a big part of my life that I plan on entering a teacher training program in January 2013. Yoga won’t supplant writing and editing and coaching and singing, but it will become a big part of the mix.

But I know you came here to talk writing. And entrepreneurship. And the freelance life. [Read more…]

Want Freelance Success? Watch Your Health

At the beginning of June, I started ghostwriting an ebook with a very aggressive timeline. I didn’t take on many other projects during that time, aside from a blog post here and there, and some copyediting work. I also didn’t take breaks for lunch. I stopped going on my afternoon walks. My topless living room yoga sessions became far less regular. And I ate a lot of takeout Chinese.

Finishing that project (the last of the edits were completed in mid-August) was like coming up for air. It was freeing, but I also felt burnt out and unmotivated. I lost all momentum. For weeks, I did the bare minimum, telling myself I’d get back in the saddle after “that trip” or “that holiday weekend.” But I never did.

Then I started making yoga a bigger part of my life* and, suddenly, I was able to jump into new coaching work, start singing funerals again, and write a book proposal. Magic? Not quite. [Read more…]

Looking for Fulfillment? Don’t Hold Out for Perfect

For the past seven years, I’ve had a love affair with the self-help genre. I’ve devoured books like Only French Women Get Fat and The Flex Diet looking for solutions to my body hate. I’ve gobbled up books like Introvert Power looking for validation. I’ve read and re-read books like Naked, Drunk, and Writing and The Boss of You, chasing career success. I’ve turned to cliche classics like Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in order to manage my mood.

There’s a lot of hate out there for self-help books, from people saying they provide false promises and lead readers to fruitlessly pursue perfection. And while I don’t look at these books as the answer to my everything, instead opting to apply what resonates with me and leave the rest, there’s definitely truth to the fact that people have a hard time being happy unless they feel they’ve achieved it all.

The other week, J. Maureen Henderson of Generation Meh wrote something on Salon that resonated with me. She described happiness as a jigsaw puzzle we could only lay claim to “once we’d carefully laid all of the pieces — careers, relationships, sense of self — into their rightful place.”

It was something that rang true.

[Read more…]