Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spring 2009 Update

This weekend it’s about 90 degrees in the mid Hudson Valley, a lot more like summer than spring. After a long cold winter that seemed to drag on endlessly in these parts, I’m elated about the warmer weather, even if it is unexpectedly HOT today!

Yesterday I received a rejection letter about a job I applied for a few weeks ago. After working as a web content provider for almost two years now, I’m excited to say that I’m a lot closer to my goal of supporting myself through my writing income. I’ve been trying to make a go of it as a full time freelance writer, but still not making enough money. I want to move out of this tiny rural town I live in (and move to a wonderful village just down the road a few miles), so recently, I’ve been looking for work again.

The job outlook here has been especially dreary. I tried a while back to look for something, but found the opportunities and the working conditions in this area of the Hudson Valley to be really disappointing. So I’ve been trying to eke out a living as a freelancer and just living the best I can on what I have. But I’ve been feeling restless lately (spring fever?) so I really wanted to find an interesting job, hopefully in the nonprofit sector, so I can move to a new place in a different area.

The rejection letter I received was from the Executive Director of a nonprofit housing corporation over in Catskill. He didn’t even call me for an interview, just wrote that they had selected another candidate and would keep me on file. And best of luck in my job search!

It might have been a good opportunity for me to get my foot in the door at a nonprofit, and I mentioned to them that I was interested in fundraising and grant writing (their website says they are always looking for grants!) The job was in bookkeeping and I am a finance/business major who graduated Summa Cum Laude from a nationally recognized local college and I also have an Associate’s Degree in business from a local community college (where I also graduated with top honors and a high grade point average).

When I was young, my elders told me this degree was “something to fall back on.” It was supposed to be something to pay the bills when acting or writing or performing failed to support me. My situation is complicated by the fact that I worked for a while in banking years ago and then left the business world to fulfill my artistic dreams.

In that time I worked freelance, and was an entrepreneur, and some employers have seen that creativity and initiative as exciting and interesting. Unfortunately, in this disastrous economic climate, potential employers see my unusual background as taking a chance? Perhaps they want someone who has worked for one company for a long time, and I can totally see that point of view, but I’m not sure where it leaves me.

All of this has made me more staunchly determined to become a successful freelancer! These experiences trying to find work in the 9 to 5 life have only made me more determined to become fully self supporting as a writer. My reasons for looking for work right now are purely economic, so I can move to a new area where I’d enjoy living. Also I’d enjoy working for a nonprofit organization. However, I’ve been working for myself for so long, and have enjoyed the benefits and freedom of freelancing, so it’s really hard for me to return to the 9 to 5.

I think I’m going to just dig in further and work even harder trying to make a go of it as a freelancer. I currently write for Associated Content, Triond and Xomba. I have stories on a few other sites but I make the bulk of my income those three places.

I’m starting to receive upfront offers again at Associated Content, so I’m submitting pieces for upfront pay as well as performance bonus only (just for page view revenues). I’ve been trying to push myself to write 100 articles per month on AC, and publish some stories on Triond also. Xomba pays for social bookmarking of things like articles, websites and photos, and they pay very well through Google AdSense. My AdSense earnings with Xomba have started to really pick up again, so I’m going to throw myself into doing more Xomblurbs (social bookmarking) with them, as well as composing some articles for Xomba (called Xombytes).

It was my intention to branch out into writing for newspapers and magazines; however, the time I’d spend querying editors and hoping to get an article accepted, is time I could spend writing more content and seeing money flow into my online accounts. If I want to be a full time freelancer, it’s probably a more effective use of my time to continue working hard as a web writer, where I know I’ll be paid. I wish it was different, and in time, I look forward to trying to break into the print markets.

There’s a lot to be grateful for now. Last fall I wrote about being screened for ovarian cancer because of an ovarian cyst, and I’m happy to report, my tests came back fine. Everything looked okay, and I’ll see the gynecologist this fall, not sure if she’ll do more ultrasound, or blood tests, or just wait a while. It’s such a relief to know that for this moment in time, things look good and there is no reason to believe I have ovarian cancer.

A few days ago I was surfing the site where I went to college and earned my Bachelor’s Degree in business and finance (after graduating, I also spent some time in the MBA program there, an unhappy time and not a good fit for me). I felt this lump in my throat and sadness wash over me, when I saw all the new programs they’ve developed. There’s a Bachelor’s Degree program in association with a college in Italy, with majors in things like digital arts, and English with a theatre concentration! It hurt my heart to see that, what I wouldn’t give to go back and study what I really wanted to take, all those years ago. Now it’s a lost opportunity that will never happen, because I doubt I’d ever go back for a second baccalaureate degree. Still, the college didn’t have such a program when I was in school, it didn’t exist.

I have to trust, that it is all happening perfectly. My writing means the world to me, and has come to occupy a place in my heart, along with performing. If the time I spent in college (where I did get to take a lot of cool English and writing and art classes along with economics, business and finance) made me the writer I am today, I am grateful for it, and it certainly wasn’t wasted time. If I want to go to Italy, I can. If I want to study English I can, and if I want more theatre training, it’s out there for me.

I’m thinking about keeping a gratitude journal. Handwriting a list each day, or on a regular basis, of all the things big and small of all kinds I’m grateful for. I’m dismayed about the economy and job situation, but I’m so lucky to have what I need, food, shelter, my loved ones around me and things that bring me joy. If you’re looking for work right now and feeling anything from concern to outright despair, I definitely feel compassion, I’m beginning to understand how tough it really is out there.

My late spring/early summer plans: brush up on my typing and MS Office skills, find a Reiki class for Level I training (mine just got cancelled for this Saturday!), looking into where I can volunteer at a local nonprofit (and learn grant writing, marketing, fundraising), possibly learn guitar so I can sing and accompany myself (I’ve got the urge to perform again!) and thinking about packing up the Jeep for a road trip this summer/fall...

If you’re unemployed right now, I challenge you to treat your freelance writing career as a full time job! I plan to go into my office every day and work harder on writing more content and increasing my freelance earnings.

I’m hoping to do more with this blog, and I plan to post a lot more links to my published articles about freelance writing that I hope will be helpful for other writers. Wherever you are, whatever your situation, keep on writing, and I wish you a very happy healthy spring!