Monday, January 19, 2009

Freelancing: Setting Structure and My First Job

IT’S BEEN JUST OVER ONE MONTH since my layoff, and lest my silence lead one to think I’d joined the French Foreign Legion, here’s an update on how I’ve fared since the beginning of the year:
  • I’m more determined than earlier this month to build a freelancing business. Michelle Goodman’s My So-Called Freelance Life, Marci Alboher’s Shifting Careers blog archives, and other sources have been most inspirational in deciding to give this a go. I am hopeful that I’ll be able to find the work in my areas of expertise that companies have eliminated from their full-time payrolls, but which they may suddenly realize they still need someone to do. Don’t believe me? That’s how I got my first gig:
  • I was contacted by my former boss during the first full week of January to gauge my interest in updating and maintaining the magazine’s website, and preparing an email newsletter from the Web content, as I’d done while employed, for an hourly rate. Why, yes, I was. Might be a semi-steady gig: Last time they got rid of a permanent in-house person who did the Web updates, they used a freelancer for 8 months until I was hired. Even if they do hire someone out in Central City to perform my editorial tasks, they probably won't take the Web work back instantly. The top dog in my old group seems to be of the mindset that if it's getting done well without babysitting and all it costs is a check each month, let it roll. I'm happy to conform to this preference.
  • To build my writing habit and skill, I have raised the game on my blog-posting 2007 Lenten experiment and have been writing 1,000 words or more per day. No specific focus or purpose, just as much free-writing as it takes to reach a grand each morning. If I’m to write professionally, I need to be able to reach the right words as soon as I can and hit those topic and deadline targets. Might as well establish the discipline when my days have a bit of time in them. But I’m acting to change that.
  • As I’d done while full time, I’ve created work-done and work-to-do lists. Along with my blotter calendar — which I bought shortly after New Year’s because during that post-illness chunk of December, I’d lost track of days — it’s helped me maintain structure. I deliberately loaded my first to-do list with as many brainstormed ideas as I could, just to see how well I could perform these tasks on a self-directed schedule. Midweek, I received the first bit of freelance work from my last job, so quite a number of them were juked forward to this week. No matter, the ideas are still good. The main goal, and habit, I’m looking to reach here is to create measurable metrics for the effort I put into finding work. It’s the exact same principle the career counseling I’d gotten after the first layoff: Tally all of your contacts each week by mode and effectiveness to see what’s working. No more gold in a particular stream? Find a new spot to pan. (Heh — I’ve been watching Deadwood as a nightly snack after my labors are done. Great right from the first episode. Floridly profane and obscene. Awesome.)
  • Less related to work, but more vital: Despite today’s ugly number (Monday after dinner with the parents and football snacking is always a bit of a retracement), I’ve continued to progress along the 30 x 40 exercise and fat-loss plan. I spent 3 days last week below 220, bottoming out at 218.5 (from 228 last birthday and 231.5 on 1/1/08) and not because of a damn fever this time. I rebuilt the muscle I’d lost while sick, and my nutrition has been strong. I need to lose about a pound a week now to keep pace (vs. .57/week when I began). However, even with no job and a snarl with the NJ unemployment people on the release of funds, I haven’t had the temptation to eat crap due to stress as I did while at the last job. And of course there’s no birthday or holiday food lying three steps away from my cube, waiting for me to succumb in a fit of frustration with the bullshit raining down. I’ve got a lot of work to do, but the rewards are evident when I can run up a flight of stairs, get out of my car without using a manual support at all, or even leap out of bed without staggering around hunched over. As with the freelance jobs and improving my writing, diligence is its own reward. (As is not repeating last March’s expedition to the fucking hospital.)
  • I’m weighing the decision to create a new blog or website under my real name from which to market myself and post relevant writing on the topic. I’m competent at Blogger, but I’ve never bought a domain name, fiddled with WordPress plug-ins (I’m leaning toward that platform), and the like. There are surely guides for all of this sort of thing. If I get this rolling, I’ll let you all know where to go. Not sure if I’d continue here, but the sadness of moving from this blog to the next will be tempered into fondness should the new one succeed in helping my business and soul both grow.
  • Last, I came to a conclusion last Friday, which I shared with my pal Amy, a longtime freelance editor, that despite only having one client, and not having received any unemployment relief yet, and facing a huge task of building a business from scratch during a recession, I was nonetheless happier sitting there, laboring away on my first billable hours, than I’d been back at the last company in months. There may indeed be a full-time job where I can get this same sense of satisfaction. While I have the chance, while I have a couple of safety nets and reserves in the middle of this shitty economy to get me through, I ought to take one bold shot at building something that preserves that feeling I described to Amy and makes it part of my every working day.


Amy said...

Yea! Very good post! I hope to find time to write more interesting freelance posts like this in the future. Getting work from a previous employer is the way to go. Good skills builder. :)

Schizohedron said...

Very true on the skill point. Without the daily InDesign contact after I left the job before this one, my command of the software rapidly became unsteady. I was pleased to find I recalled 95% of the steps for this gig. Good thing, b/c my notes on the process are either still on my old desk, boxed up ahead of the office closure and en route to Central City, or in a Dumpster.