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My Professional Forties Part II: Freelance and the Family Man

Posted by CW64 on January 31, 2010

Upon graduation with my first M.A. in English, I entered the world of freelance writing, specifically ghost writing. I received no bylines aside from those articles I had published as editor of the publications for which I had served. This was primarily online, but also included a few off. At first, the projects flowed. Articles ranged (and still do) anywhere from 2-to-7 dollars apiece, depending on the number of words. I simultaneously applied for some teaching positions at local community colleges, with no success, but also continued to tutor. Still, I didn’t complain because I was doing what I loved to do, which was writing and getting paid for it. That was, after all, the point of it.

The subject matter (or topics, as they are known) ranged from finances to furniture to digital cameras to antiques to automobiles to mortgages. These topics, which included blurbs and product reviews, provided me with the opportunity to write different types of articles. A few were even encyclopedic entries for informational sites. Snakes and exotic fish were prevalent. I had acquired various other topics, too, like erotic themes in music and manufactured homes. Not only did I increase my knowledge in these areas, I also developed my writing and editing skills as well.

And limited they were! They were short and the pay consistent. The highest compensation I ever received was $280 for a two-week project consisting of approximately fifty articles.

The pay structure is not universal in the industry; many online businesses pay base rates for the average freelancer, though some do offer the kind of more lucrative pay that seasoned writers expect. In addition, since the freelance market is global, many writers abroad work for rates that are adequate in their own respective economies but low compared to those who live and work in regions where inflation and the cost of living are higher, such as the United States and western Europe. As a result, these particular freelancers tend to get more work in the long run because they save business overhead for buyers.

By the time the autumn of 2008 rolled around, the project flow ebbed and the work became more and more inconsistent. I needed to continue working. My two major credit card bills had been sold to outside sources that had subsequently retained the services of collection agencies. I was between the proverbial rock and a hard place. I needed an alternate form of income and fast.

Despite my desire to focus on my writing career, I had to shelf it, at least temporarily, in order to work on something outside the box. It wasn’t the most ideal of job positions, but it was honest, and, at that point in time (August of 2008), I had no choice (of course, this happens to so many writers, so why should I have been any exception? I wasn’t, and I knew it, especially since I was from a poor family, though considerably educated). The persistent calls from debt collectors impressed upon me that the need to pay those credit card bills had immediately become priority.

This is what inspired the short story Dishwasher, about an older college educated man who, due to lack of career employment opportunities, reluctantly takes a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant. While there, he meets several interesting people, some of them older but many younger, and is drawn into some risky near-the-edge situations that drive him to write a story that he ultimately gets published. The story is reminiscent of its author’s life, albeit a mere slice of it, but it is real and that is the entire point. The reflection within a reflection is what gives the story its depth and sense of profundity.

I still freelance and tutor writing and Spanish, along with my other (i.e. retail) work, so that means positive progression. That won’t change; I have and will continue to spread myself around—my options, interests and capabilities are boundless.

After conducting further research and continuing freelance work, I have discovered that some clients, agencies and publishing companies, such as Atlantic Publications, Inc. do offer larger, more challenging projects with comparable and adjustable pay rates. E-books, which have become prevalent in book-publishing, can bring higher sums for experienced freelance writers, along with bylines, which translates into professional recognition.

Now, I have become close to my family—my mother and two older sisters—who all have been there to give me the support I so much need. They all believe in me and know I deserve a career-oriented job, one that offers a greater intellectual challenge; it is their support that gives me the strength and determination to carry on. I have learned more about myself through my family. I realize, too, that family is important, especially my mother, who is close to eighty and overcome with physical disabilities that include hearing loss, sore knees and weak ankles that hurt whenever she walks in excess. Through them, I have learned that my responsibility is not only over my own life, but aptly towards those who are dear to me. My mother did so much for me when I was growing up and now she depends on me. I am not a momma’s boy (a term that has been thrown around in society and on the Internet so often over the past years that its use has been more erroneous than not), but I do have a heart, conscience and life of my own.

The already described Born to Be Wild came into fruition at this time, after so much prompting from people, including my professor. Aside from what has already been mentioned, this story showcases my close relationship with my sister and simultaneously shows how my mother’s influences have driven me to become the man I have become. The Long Road (extended version) also delves into the protagonist’s relationship with his family that in some ways mirrors mine. Even when it doesn’t, his closeness with his mother, father and younger sister projects a sense of familial camaraderie that depicts the importance of family and how that bond is never broken, even over distance of many miles. The same sentiment is prevalent throughout the ghost story Bond beyond the Grave, which was actually written some years prior and discussed in a few of my graduate seminars. While visiting friends in France, a young man has a ghostly encounter that overwhelms him. He meets his great grandfather’s spirit who replays the incident of his death so the lad will know how he died. Here, the familial bond is strong not only over physical distance, but also over the span of time and between planes of existence. The bond shared by family is one of the most powerful and everlasting in existence.

As of today, I have grown into a man who is sure of himself, and that is, in major part, due to introspection and the continuous exploration of where I originated and have been. Many people claim that we should not think of the past but focus on the present in order to move into the future. My experiences, however, have taught me that my entire life, including my past, plays a significant role in defining who I am and where I am destined to go. Like the pieces of a puzzle, each aspect of my life is distinct, but everything fits together to form a vast picture. I continue to assemble that picture and bring further depth and meaning to it every single day.

Thus, I write . . .

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8 Responses to “My Professional Forties Part II: Freelance and the Family Man”

  1. I found your blog post while searching Google. Very relevant especially as this is not an issue which a lot of peaople know that well

    • CW64 said

      Thanks, TW!

      Much of this comes from exposure through experience, which is the point of the article.

      Please understand, too, that I am not totally against freelancing; I have had various positive experiences as well, including developing my writing and expanding my writing network. Despite the low pay, never disregard the opportunity to write or develop your writing skills, as long as the venture is honest.

      As for the latter–expanding one’s writing network–please remember: If you wish to be a professional writer, you have to have a network of associations–editors, publishers, other writers and professors. Writers should also try to establish connections through various related institutions, such as writing agencies, journals, magazines, publishing houses and even websites and writing groups. These entities, whether individuals or communities, will help you become established, but you must seek them and explore possibilities. Individuality is important in writing, but writers, especially newcomers, cannot make it without forming relations with others in the field. This is essential!

      Most of all, be patient. Success doesn’t happen overnight. Rejections and negative feedback are par for the course, but they serve to help writers look at their writing objectively and realistically, with a critical eye, so that they become motivated to develop their vocabulary and style. Every negative experience has a positive flipside. Never be deterred, and keep on writing . . . .

  2. I think you have captured a lot of the problems that exist for us as writers. Getting my contract with Atlantic Publishing is a step in the right direction for me and will hopefully provide the fuel I need to move forward into more productive and lucrative writing positions. The pay isn’t great but will help me get on the right path. Once you have published a book it is much easier to move into other similar projects. My goal is to acquire higher paying projects that will allow me to make more money while working fewer hours.

    • CW64 said

      My thinking as well, Brenda. I want to be in a position where I am established, recognized, comfortable and, above all, respected. Although we are now on the level of professional, our journey is not over yet–there are more levels to attain and many other achievements to make.

      Making more money while working fewer hours? THAT’s a writer’s dream! Hopefully, such a dream can come to fruition in reality as it has for many writers.

  3. Great article. There’s a lot of good data here, though I did want to let you know something – I am running Mac OS X with the latest beta of Firefox, and the look and feel of your blog is kind of funky for me. I can understand the articles, but the navigation doesn’t work so good.

    • CW64 said

      Maria,

      I am glad you enjoyed the article. That is important to me. When this happens, I know that the article has made all the difference in the world.

      I am sorry to read about your technological difficulties. I don’t know that I can help you with that. Brenda, another poster here, utilizes Firfox and is very familiar with it. Perhaps she would be willing to help you make the appropriate adjustments. She checks this blog regularly, so perhaps she will see it and contact you. Good luck!

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  5. Dan Meyer said

    Reading this reminds me of my previous room mate. That guy was one of the smartest persons I know, but he was a little beatnik for my tastes though. Anyways I appreciated reading this, thanks. Will give me something to argue about when I see him.

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