What’s on the iPod: I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons
I spent the week thus far deep in researching and outlining an article assignment. Normally, I know going in where the article is going, but when the editor suggested a two-part article, I had to retrace and rethink. I have a handle on it now, which means it’s time to get interviews scheduled. That’s today’s job.
I had an offer recently — a tempting one — where I had that familiar angst. It was for a desk job, though the desk was still here at home. It was a full-time job with an actual W2. The pay was great, and I’d have to visit the office twice a month. The rest of the time I’d be working from home, sitting in this same comfy chair and owning my own work process.
I turned it down.
While it was a great offer, it wasn’t ideal. The hours were unsavory (“certainly not 40 hours a week, but not 80 hours, either”). Plus, I’d have to lose a lot of contacts and clients and relationships I’d worked hard to get. I couldn’t work on my own projects, nor could I expect my weekends to be anything but more work.
Deal breaker. Right there.
That’s a point we get to in our writing careers — the point of discerning not what is a great offer, but what is an offer we can live with. While it may seem on the surface to be a perfect fit, there’s usually one tiny detail that grabs hold of your brain and won’t let go. Once you do this job for a while, you find it much easier to recognize the signs.
In fact, time at this writing life gives a better perspective on a lot of things. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my freelance writing career:
Intuition is best heeded. In every instance where I listened to my gut, I came out happier for it. If you have even a thread of uncertainty, tug hard on the thread and see what unravels. Talking it over with others may help, but don’t discount your instincts. Your spouse, partner, friends are all bringing their own experiences and prejudices into their advice. You are the only one who knows what your gut is telling you.
Advice should be viewed with a critical eye. I’ve had lots of people tell me how I should be doing this differently or how their way is the best way. It sure is — for them. What works for Jane doesn’t always work for Joe. If someone told you the only way to get business was through cold calling and you hated using the phone, what does that tell you about your success with that advice? If a statement starts with an absolute — must, only, etc.–chances are it’s already false.
No other business is exactly like yours. Hence the reason all advice won’t work for you. It may take time to find your sweet spot — a marketing or work process that really works for you — but it may turn out looking like nothing else you’ve seen. To me, that’s a successful fit.
You can say no. Your world won’t crumble and your wallet won’t shrivel up and die if you turn down something that doesn’t fit. Why would you take the gig paying $5 an article when there are plenty of writers making $500+ for the same work?
Rejection of your proposal/price/ideas is okay. A prospect who doesn’t mesh with you on any level isn’t your client. It’s not a reflection of your talents or your pricing necessarily, but more a reflection of someone else’s budget or incompatibility.I’ve had plenty of prospects over the years who couldn’t afford my price, didn’t like my proposals, or didn’t get my ideas. Clearly, we weren’t simpatico. And it’s okay. For every one client you don’t gain are scores more who may fit perfectly. Don’t get hung up on it.
An unprofessional client does not an unprofessional writer make. It really doesn’t matter how the client behaves or talks to you. It’s out of your control. The only thing you can control is your own response and behavior. If they’ve just called your pricing ridiculous or said you couldn’t write your way out of a paper bag, that should mean one thing to you — this isn’t someone you want to work with. Stay with the high road. Always.
A good work/life balance is essential. I may have been pushed onto this path, but it’s one I had wanted for years. I have a great balance of interesting work and down time. I’ve learned to protect it like it’s a child. A fulfilled writer is a more productive writer. Who wouldn’t want to have time off, have space in the day to work on personal projects, and create a business and career that fits just so?
What things have you learned from your freelance writing career?
What was the toughest lesson? How did you come to a point where you could do what’s best for you?