Does Not Work Well with Others, or: Why Freelancing Is Never What You Expect

introvertAround the time I first joined Toastmasters, the club president gave a speech about leadership.

In Toastmasters, members typically work their way through a Competent Communicator manual, and often neglect the other manual they receive upon signing up: the Competent Leadership manual. Our president spoke of the importance of working on leadership, and urged us all to start making time for our leadership manuals.

There was a Q+A afterward. Being the pain-in-the-ass brat I am, I asked:

“Why should I work on leadership if, as a full-time, work-at-home freelancer, I aspire to avoid all leadership roles?”

Little did I know how much things would change in just a year. [Read more…]

How I Went From Being the “Vibrator Queen” to Being the Senior Writer of a Sexual Health Organization

sexysexcollageThirteen years ago, I set out for an interview at the Boston Phoenix. I was up for an editorial internship in their new media department and, upon my arrival, I was ushered into the private office of the man who would eventually become my supervisor. He sat before me, rifling through my clips and pointing out weaknesses he perceived, leaving me wondering if I stood a chance. I uncrossed and re-crossed my legs. I twirled my hair nervously.

And then: “Do you feel comfortable working with adult content?”

I wasn’t expecting that and, honestly, wasn’t even sure what constituted “adult content.” So of course, I answered in the affirmative.

“Great!” he said, slapping his desk with a decisiveness that startled me. “Come around here and have a look at what you’ll be working on!” I rose slowly from my chair, inched my way around his desk, and came to stand behind him. I leaned slightly over his shoulder, squinting at his computer screen.

The site I saw wasn’t the Phoenix. In the left-hand sidebar was a bare cartoon ass. He hovered his mouse over it, and slapping sounds rang out from the computer’s speakers. He chuckled. “Gets me every time!”

He then proceeded to tell me about the two personals sites owned by the Phoenix Media/Communications Group — one of them pretty standard; the other more risqué — and explained what his interns would be expected to do. I was hired on the spot.

This is how I became the Vibrator Queen.

Today, I’m the Senior Writer / Editor for a sexual health organization, and the social media manager for another social services organizations.

How the hell did I get from there to here? It was all very uncalculated. [Read more…]

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…]

Making a Plan for 2014… But Not Being Married to It

champagnecork2013 was my lowest-income year since I first entered the publishing industry back in late 2004.

I became disillusioned by the freelance writing game and stopped pitching. Stopped blogging. Stopped coaching. Stopped working on my manuscript. I flailed about for something new to do, but discarded each new option as the wrong one. I threw myself into my yoga teaching certification program and tried not to think about the fact that I was spending a shit-ton of money while not bringing new money in. As the end of the year approached, I felt like a total failure.

But then I read Lisa Romeo’s post on I Did It lists, and started writing up my own (as much as I also dreaded the endeavor). [Read more…]

7 Things I Worry About as a Pregnant Sex Writer

Young pregnant woman surfing the internetTwo months ago, I found out I was pregnant, and I immediately burst into tears.

They were happy tears, because my husband and I had been trying for the past three and a half years. Not only that, but we’d been about to try a third round of IUI. Talk about dodging a bullet. That whole process is a pain in the ass.

After the at-home test was confirmed by blood work and an ultrasound, I transitioned smoothly into Crazy Neurotic Person Who Worries About Everything:

Will I break the baby with coffee?

Will I break the baby with yoga?

Will I break the baby because I keep tossing and turning in bed?

Holy crap I forgot I’m not supposed to eat soft cheeses. Did I break the baby?

(My OB/GYN assures me that, unless I smoke crack, the baby should be fine. This is why I love her.)

Then — after going through a phase in which I wondered if the baby was actually just a food baby from too many spinach balls — I decided to preemptively worry about how my identity as a sex writer might affect my child. Here are just the first seven things that popped into my head: [Read more…]

Can I Still Call Myself a Writer?

PicMonkey CollageI’ve had plans to be a writer for the past 28 years. And for the past 28 years, I’ve done a pretty good job of achieving success in that endeavor.

It started with published poetry and both lit mag and school newspaper involvement when I was a young twerp. Later on, I was an editor and writer for my college paper, and also landed a part-time editorial assistant / copy editing gig at a local weekly. I went on to intern at alternative weeklies, online mags, and small presses before landing a full-time job for an academic book publisher. And though I moved steadily up the ladder while there, I eventually left to go full-time freelance, during which time I was an editor at an online mag, a sex columnist (twice), a blog manager (twice), a ghostwriter, etc.  I even landed myself a literary agent on the strength of my book proposal.

I also spent a couple years coaching beginning freelance writers but, during that time, found myself becoming disillusioned by the whole damn game, and burnt out on the things I was writing. Rates were dropping everywhere. Quality writing was being devalued. And I’d been asked to write so many lowest-common-denominator listicles that I began to lose my taste for the hustle. I mean, what was the point? Why write crap content for crap rates? Why continue hustling for work that didn’t even make me proud? [Read more…]

How To Be Open To All (the Right) Opportunities

Several weeks ago, I shadowed one of my OMies as she taught kids yoga as part of the Newark Yoga Movement.

It seemed like a fantastic program. The children were adorable. My friend was brilliant. But in the end — remembering how ineffective I’d been when doing volunteer work with kids in the past — I decided I didn’t really have it in me. It just wasn’t the right path for me.

Still, I wondered: Shouldn’t I be open to every opportunity that came my way?

My friend had made a post-teacher training vow to say yes to every opportunity that came her way and, because of that, she was now making a decent amount of money from yoga alone, between the NYM, and the teaching she did at two different studios.

Should I go about things in the same way?  [Read more…]

How To Think Outside the Box When Developing Multiple Revenue Streams

certificationBefore I went full-time freelance nearly six years ago, I secured a permalance copyediting gig, an internship at a web magazine, and freelance publicity work from my former employer. I figured that — beyond that — I would just frolic about, getting assignments at a variety of magazines and magically paying my bills.

And it worked.

For about a year and a half.

Then the newspaper where I was copyediting folded. The blogging gig that had grown out of my internship shrunk. And I was suddenly struggling.

This is when I realized I had to hustle. And diversify. And apply a liberal amount of elbow grease.

I’ve tried a number of things over the years. And most of these things have been in some way connected to my writing and publishing background. I’ve done editing work for authors, publishers, and both print and online magazines. I’ve co-authored and and ghostwritten ebooks and blog posts. I’ve done social media management.

Even my coaching has been connected. After earning my career coaching certification, I ran an e-course, threw a speed networking event, and did one-on-one coaching, all for beginning publishing professionals and freelance writers.

But I’ve learned that you shouldn’t feel limited by one industry, or one, particular skill. There’s no need to. [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…]

What Got Me Here: Self-Education, Goal-Setting, Hard Work, and a Helluva Lot of Privilege

A perfect illustration of my day-to-day as a freelancer.

A perfect illustration of my day-to-day as a freelancer.

When the Nate Thayer / Atlantic kerfuffle occurred, I cycled quickly through a series of reactions.

First, I felt a knee-jerk “Damn the man! Save the empire!” swell of joyful rebellion.

Then, after reading senior Atlantic editor Alexis Madrigal’s response — an explanation of the limits of digital publishing — I felt recognition.

That’s when I wrote this on one of the freelance writer forums I frequented:

“I must admit, I feel for those on both sides of this equation. I feel as if Nate Thayer obviously deserved to be horrified that he was being asked to re-purpose a piece for free… especially from a publication as well-established as the Atlantic. I also feel as if he shouldn’t have published those emails. Having worked at an online publication with a shit budget, I know that it was out of the editor’s hands. And then there’s Alexis Madrigal’s piece, which I found interesting. Because I think it gets to the root of the issue: The digital publishing model is hopelessly broken and devalues the work of writers, while at the the same time making it difficult for publications to stay afloat.

I’m not going to go into the issues of plummeting ad dollars and whether or not paywalls are a good idea and blah blah blah because it’s all been said before (though, personally, I’d pay for content if it was of higher quality than the drivel so often found on content mills… it’s why I subscribe to publications like Oxford American and Creative Nonfiction and Poets & Writers).

But I will say that the experience Alexis described in his piece rings true. At one point, I launched and managed a blog for an online publication, and it was a lesson in frustration and despair. The budget I was given was insulting. I wanted to bring in quality content, but the money I had to offer wasn’t worthy of the writing I wanted. In some cases, I pushed back against the publisher, trying to negotiate more money or better contract terms for my writers. But it was an uphill battle. And I’m seeing the same thing happening at most other publications.

I mean… isn’t that why so many of us have diversified? It’s become impossible for us to be paid what we’re worth for the work we’re most proud of?”

After writing that, I read through a slew of posts from freelance writers who either championed writing for free or shamed publications for expecting us to work for exposure. I felt the same sort of conflicted confusion I’ve already written about here.

And then, finally, I came upon this post over at Gawker, about what happens when people write for free. It pointed out what wasn’t being mentioned in the endless back-and-forth between online writers and digital editors: the fact that the writing game is “rigged for people who already have money.” [Read more…]