|Magnolia needn’t be dull.|
No, not a promo for one of my excellent and delightfully affordable ebooks; instead, a pause for reflection. If writing teaches us anything, it’s that change is inevitable. The blank page, if worked upon, becomes a tentative piece of writing and then develops into something. (Even disillusionment is something!)
The same is true of writers themselves. When we stick with the practice of writing, we develop – on the page and off it. We learn as we go, playing to our strengths and, hopefully, working on our weaknesses.
Sometimes what becomes a strength isn’t what we were naturally good at; we were simply motivated enough to become proficient. Proficiency in a subject or a skill can be absolutely fine and needn’t take 10,000 hours to get there. Sometimes you reach a destination only to find, although you’ve enjoyed the journey, you never want to go there again.
As a freelancer I started off with a simple (one might say, naive) strategy, which was never to turn any work down. I’d left corporate-ville with a my skills and aspirations tied to a stick and I was keen to experience the wider world of writing and being a writer. Consequently, in many respects I’ve been something of a generalist.
In fact, by my estimation, I’ve written or edited across a range of subjects, including but not limited to:
It’s a diverse track record and, as business branding experts will tell you, it’s better to establish a specialism (preferably more than one) to enable the clients you want to find their way to you.
Let’s call that the horizontal change, leading us naturally to consider a vertical change.
Like I said, back in paragraph four (You remember? We had tea and cakes at the time.), my approach to freelancing was pretty simple at the outset:
1. Find clients.
2. Provide writing services for them.
3. Get paid.
4. Return to item 1, lickety split.
Even in the short time I’ve been freelancing the landscape has changed (some might say evolved while others prefer degenerated). So-called content farms spring up like wildflowers or weeds, depending on your perspective. There are also numerous sites out there now, offering writing work for businesses or others that host small ads. Often, several sites host links to the same small ad – and we’ll come to that in a moment.
Returning to my theme of change, before you have to catch your bus, no strategy lasts forever. As you progress, you re-evalusate what works (and how effectively) and what doesn’t.
See, that didn’t take long.
I can’t recall how I first found Craigslist, but ole Craig has been good to me. I used to frequent Craigslist – frequently – when I had no other writing work on the go. By trial and error, I figured out which cities offered the best prospects (some of which were not what I expected), and which to avoid. Thanks to Paypal and the letter ‘z’, I ploughed a satisfying furrow across North America, notching up a variety of unconnected adventures such as: selling a Volkswagen Beetle (thanks, Kyle), notching up a brief stint as a Toronto magazine columnist, helping to brand a raccoon (it’s a long story) and connecting with Thorn Sully and everyone at A Word with You Press in Moscow, Idaho (an even longer and funnier story).
Overall, Craigslist has made me several hundred pounds (more, actually, but no one likes a show-off). Also, it has to be said, I’ve been ripped off once or twice, which statistically is par for the course. (Yes, I know there’s a Craigslist white paper in all of that somewhere – quote me a price…)
However, just as a novelist wouldn’t expect their fiction to remain the same forever, so a freelancer needs to develop how they do business. More on that in Part 2, in due course.
In the meantime, Craig, we’ll always be friends.