Shared with permission:
I have a confession to make. I Googled you to learn more about you and your “early years.” I can’t find much about you save for online articles and your blog. I’m interested in learning more about the beginning of your writing career, how you juggled a full time job while you were starting out and when you knew it was time to quit your day job.
Thank you for your blog. You and your colleagues provide a valuable resource.
I asked Loretta if I could respond to her email publicly because so many of you ask me about how I knew I wanted to be a freelance writer, my publishing career and when it was time to leave my full time job. It’s not a very interesting story, probably it’s typical and normal.
An early start
Like most of you, I always enjoyed writing. When I was in school, I didn’t join my fellow students in their moaning and groaning over term papers and essays. I looked forward to these assignments and did well. My favorite classes were those having to do with writing such as Journalism or English composition. I fed my addiction by keeping notebooks and diaries, even as far back as high school.
A career in publishing
I didn’t go to college upon graduation like most students my age. Instead, I took some night courses when I was a little older. My real writing experience began in 1985 at the age of 20, when I was hired as the receptionist for a boutique publishing company. They published over 100 titles including knitting magazines, tattoo magazines and even some adult oriented magazines. As I moved up the ranks, some editors took me under their wings to encourage me to write more.
After 8 years I left my job in publishing to work for the graphic design and editorial firm that designed and handled the editorial and writing for many of the magazines published by my original employer. Though the gig was to be administrative, my duties were that of an Editorial Assistant and I loved my job. For a while.
My first byline
My first print byline appeared in the early 90’s for a now-defunct music and tattoo magazine. My boss sent me to attend a concert at Bryant Park put on by a top New York City hard rock station. The band wasn’t very well known but I felt special as I hung out backstage to ask questions about their tattoos. I got the gig because the original writer became ill at the very last minute. There was no one to fill in but me.
I loved seeing my name in print and wanted more.
Another of my duties was to give a final proofread to magazines before they went to press. Though I enjoyed this as well, it was also the reason I left the job. Many of the magazines were adult in nature and I didn’t enjoy proofreading them or looking at the accompanying images. I left after several years to work for the accounting department of an upscale retail chain.
But I was bored. I didn’t want to add, I wanted to write.
The beginning of a freelance writing career
Throughout the 90’s, I attended night courses, mostly related to small business, at Baruch College in NYC. While there I also learned basic HTML and created a website so I could write whatever I wanted. I didn’t know it then, but it was my first blog. My dad was my biggest fan and one of my two daily visitors.
I began fantasizing more about writing for a living and researched the ways to begin. In 1999 I landed a humor column with Suite 101. In those days they paid a monthly fee which wasn’t much but I felt very important. The column was very popular and I enjoyed responding to the lively community in the comments. Through the Suite 101 gig, I landed a few other humor writing gigs here and there.
At that point in my career I had just gotten married and my husband and I were saving for a house. It didn’t occur to me to consider leaving my job to freelance, but I began looking for freelance writing jobs simply because I enjoyed writing.
Movin’ on up
In 2001, my husband and learned we were pregnant and bought a house in another state. Here was my chance to start over as a freelance writer. I was going to leave my job anyway to move and raise my child, now was as good a time as any.
I will say first and foremost, I probably wouldn’t have left my full time job if my husband didn’t already have a very good job. If we didn’t have two salaries, it would have been a lot more difficult for me to support myself in the beginning.
Goals are good
We set a goal. I would take a year to get my career off the ground and if it worked out well I could continue to write until our son was enrolled in school full time. Though I didn’t want it to be a temporary thing, I really didn’t expect to still be doing this now.
During the first two years I worked as hard as I could with a baby by my side. I didn’t keep all my eggs in the same basket. I worked for content sites, web clients such as iParenting Media and Legal Zoom, newsletters like the Dollar Stretcher, a couple of private clients and even landed a newspaper column using, believe or not, content site clips.
I believe the diversity was the key to my success.
I guess the rest is easy enough to figure out. I don’t find my story particularly interesting or inspiring. The truth is, I enjoyed writing and when I had to leave my job to relocate and have a baby, I saw my opportunity. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.
Now tell us your story. What is your background and how did you get to where you are today?