When I first became a freelance writer, I had visions of 20-hour work weeks, taking weeks off at a time and filling the world with enlightening writing that would delight and inspire. I pictured having assignments just appear before me for the taking — and really being able to choose what I worked on and didn’t. Those visions? Not quite reality. While it may seem like what being a freelance writer is all about, there is a lot more to it than that. There are times when I work 80 hours a week and feel like so many important things fall by the wayside. There are times when it feels like I just can’t seem to catch a break. And there are times when a gem of an assignment comes to me and I’m overjoyed. The best times? When my writing touches people — and I find out about it. That makes everything — every up and down worthwhile.
To make a career of being a freelance writer, you have to be constantly vigilant — always pitching, always creating and always on the lookout for jobs to insulate your income. And assignments? Though some will just appear, most come because you’ve spent the time researching, writing and sending queries. It’s a busy business that requires more than luck and a good attitude — it requires drive and a willingness to do what it takes to get things done well.
And yet, despite all your best efforts, sometimes long-term gigs end, leaving a hole in your income and schedule.
Last year, a longtime freelance gig ended for me and it was bittersweet, to say the least. After more than two years with the publication, I wasn’t finding the same joy in my work that I once had. Things had changed substantially, and the publication had developed a voice and style that was vastly different than my own. In the online world, being authentic is so important — and though I could mimic what they wanted, it wasn’t me. Still, we’d tried to make it work for awhile. I loved working with the publication, and having the gig come to an end was both a relief and a disappointment.
When I had started writing for the publication, it was brand new and looking for direction. My experience was tapped repeatedly as they grew rapidly over the first 18 months. As the site developed a niche and a voice, it began reaching an audience that is underutilized. At the same time, the site changed its needs. They developed a visual style and levied more importance on the photos used. Meanwhile, the tone of the writing also changed from knowledgeable source to edgy, young fun friend.
In short, the site grew from the small one that I helped mold to a major player with big talent. For a while, my suggestions created a lot of change on the site for the better. Google’s many tools were used to manage calendars and planning. Features were added. But as the site grew, my knowledge wasn’t tapped as often. They didn’t need to, because they found their space and role.
When I received the call that my contract was ending, I remember looking out the window as the news was delivered. It was a sunny January day, and my kids were just coming home from school. Even as it was ending, so much else was happening. I thanked them, and that was it. I was sad to have the gig end. But life moves on, and I must too.
More than a year later, I do miss working with that publication. It was a fun group, and there was always something fun coming up. But over the past year, I have had the opportunity to really evaluate what I am doing — and what I am passionate about. It hasn’t been an easy, but I finally realized that in everything I do, what I want most is to inspire people through my writing. I want to be the voice that says you-can-do-this without saying it.
Parting ways with that client was hard, but finding my overarching joy and passion in writing again was a blessing.
When a long-term assignment ends, it’s natural to be upset. But it’s what happens after that is really important. Do you let it grate on you and hold you down? Do you let it eat at you? Or do you pick up, fill the gaps and take a closer look at what really matters and what you really want?
The latter is the way to go. It will lead to something better. It will give you that new beginning.