2013 marks my fourth year of blogging, and when I look back over how this blog (and this whole website, and my career and my whole life while we’re on the subject) has evolved during that time, it’s a little amazing to me.
But what may amaze and delight me may be confusing to my lovely readers. As in, I’ve noticed a lot of new subscribers in the past few months — and a lot of new un-subscribers. Ouch… except I understand why. People often come to my site because they’ve read a specific story that I’ve written elsewhere — and then understandably get bored or turned off when they realize that I don’t blog 24/7 about that specific topic. (Be it MLM marketing scams or lighthouse renovations or what have you.)
So I thought it would be helpful to all you readers, new and old, if I sketched out a clearer mission statement for this blog and kept it posted right here on the top of the blog page, always and forever. (Or until everything about this site evolves again and that no longer makes sense.)
So now that you’ve seen how I work the Magic Hour and spend too much time talking to my cats, it’s time for our first official peek at a day in the life of another freelancer. Kicking things off is the very awesome Amy Palanjian. Amy and I bonded instantly when we were hired as assistant editors at the now-dead Organic Style in 2004. The magazine was run on such a shoestring budget that instead of having cubicles, we shared a conference table with two other editors — ensuring that we would either get entirely sick of each other or become best friends. Spoiler alert: It was the latter.
I’ve decided that in addition to hearing how these freelance writers spend their day, you’re also going to want to hear a little bit about what kind of work they do and how they got where they are — so keep reading for that conversation with Amy after her daily routine.
Here is Amy:
Just a quick one because I wanted to share this compelling infographic designed by the National Women’s Law Center. Per the email they sent around:
[Last week] Senator Harkin and Representative Miller introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. This bill would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, then provide for automatic adjustments linked to changes in the cost of living. The bill would also gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, which has been frozen at just $2.13 per hour for more than 20 years. And let’s not forget President Obama’s words of support for increasing the minimum wage in his most recent State of the Union address.
Here is a rule that I have about email: Once more than five people send me a link to something, I have to really read it and Have Thoughts. This week, it will not surprise you to hear that the link I keep getting emailed is Nate Thayer’s dust-up with The Atlantic when one of their online editors asked him to write a 1200 word article for “exposure.” (If you missed this whole deal and want a good summary of how The Atlantic and general world responded to Nate’s post, check out Jane Friedman’s excellent write-up here.)
“Exposure” is just a fancy word for “free.” As regular readers of this blog know, I am not a fan of working for free, although there are a few respectable instances where you might decide that it makes sense and exposure is one of them. Ironic case in point: I let that very blog post about not working for free be re-posted to Medium and Ed2010 for free – because those sites are run by colleagues who I like and respect and because I know they have lots of freelancers among their readership, so the piece could reach people who would find it helpful.
I fully admit to falling asleep after Russell Crowe ruined the Les Mis group singalong, but now that I’ve caught up on the remaining 19 hours of the Oscars last night, there are a few things I think we need to talk about.
1. Enough with the Black Swanning already.
Forget your feelings about her nipple-y dress and overly earnest acceptance speech, Anne Hathaway killed it f*cking dead as Fantine and I’m glad she won. At the same time, I am not excited about two big wins, two years in a row, for already-tiny actresses winnowing down to skeleton size for these roles. I know there’s a case to be made for method acting and I guess, yes, an 18th century French prostitute dying of consumption would be pretty starved-looking. (Though the chicks who played her on Broadway never seem to need to go there.) See also an insane ballerina. But the media frenzy around these weight-loss-for-art stories only reinforces our skewed ideas about what women need to look like to be successful. We do not get this lathered up when male actors change their body shape for a part, period. It also gets in the way of appreciating the fine acting these women are actually doing because instead of talking about the interesting choices they made with their brains, we’re thinking, as usual, that women are their bodies and not much more.
Co-worker Walter gets on top of some filing.
Introducing a new feature for The Freelance Life: Day in the Life snapshots! I love when other blogs do these — especially So How Was Your Day?, which obviously does nothing but — because I am absolutely beyond nosey (yes I will also look in your bathroom cabinets when you invite me over, without a modicum of shame). And with freelancing, there are just so many endless variations on how you could spend your day! But I have a working theory that while there are many different effective working styles, there are better and worse things you can do with your time to be productive and successful. And that perhaps the freelancer stereotype of sleeping until 3 PM, working in your pajamas and eating Ramen noodles for all your meals falls into the “worse” category.
When you’re starting out as a freelance writer (or really, in any creative/media-driven career), this really annoying thing happens: People ask you to work for free. A lot.
I don’t know too many lawyers or investment bankers or insert-almost-any-other-profession-here who have to work gratis or for “stipends” (read: slave wages and maybe some swag from the beauty closet) for years before they get a regular paycheck, but in our industry, it’s a rite of passage. I’m one of the “lucky” ones because I got most of my unpaid labor done in college via three unpaid magazine internships. I made fantastic connections at these “jobs,” and one of them turned into a full-time job after college, so lots of people would say, you see? Luck. But what really makes me lucky is that I come from a family who supported my career goals and were financially able to subsidize the huge corporations benefiting from my pro bono photocopying all those semesters by covering my living expenses through college and for a wee bit afterwards. #thanksagainparentalunits!
Alright, alright, it’s finally time for us to finish up these business plans that we started oh so long ago.
The good news is, if you’ve already written up your professional goals and financial goals, you are basically set for the year — especially if this is your first year writing a business plan. Those are the most essential parts because now you know how much money your business will make and what you need to do to make that money. And have a warm and fuzzy feeling about your career, all at the same time.
I know I’m subjecting you guys to some blog radio silence at the moment — and here you are, only halfway through your business plans! It’s the usual holidays-work-travel pile-up but I promise we’ll get back to that soon.
In the meantime, I’m delighted to report that several of my posts have been reprinted over on We Are the Real Deal, a project of the nonprofit NORMAL, which raises awareness about eating disorders, body image and self-esteem through the arts. We Are the Real Deal is “an educational blog universe” where a roster of over 40 contributors blog about body image, self-esteem and nutrition for young girls and women.
I know this has already made the rounds on Facebook, but I think it’s worth sharing here, too.
I don’t have to tell you that the story of Sandy Hook is a tragedy beyond comprehension.
But Sandy Hook is also a story of helpers.
And now it is time for all of us to be helpers, too.
Liza Lang was helping when she wrote “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” to show how poorly our country misunderstands, mistreats and ignores people with mental illness.
Mayor Bloomberg and the Campaign of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (and many other activists) are helping by demanding that President Obama and Congress come up with a plan to end gun violence.