Ever Had Freelance Moments Like This?

(Apologies for the LONG hiatus from the blog. Been up to my neck in selling my home of 26 years, shedding tons of stuff, packing, moving to a much smaller place (very liberating…), and getting settled in. So, to ease back in, I thought I’d keep it light…).

So, a few weeks back, a dear friend and fellow commercial writer out in the Midwest, shared a snapshot moment of “singledom” that was truly laugh-out-loud funny. She wrote:

Occasionally, I get a startling mental snapshot of my life as a single person as I go about my day. This morning, the one I took was of breakfast, at 12:15 p.m., consisting of coffee with last-resort powdered skim milk and farmer’s market croutons (big and hard!) dipped in foie gras mousse, followed by morning meds washed down with the wine left in the glass from last night.

Time to buy some real groceries…

I couldn’t help but think this hilarious account could just as easily have come from a freelancer, working out of their home, and living that more…unstructured existence that in my mind anyway, is one of the biggest pluses (and yes, one of the most formidable challenges) of the life of a freelance commercial writer.

Anyway, it got me thinking… We’ve all no doubt had those moments that epitomize the freelance life—moments that make us laugh or cause us to be grateful, or happy, or fulfilled, or serene, or giddy, or yes, frustrated.

For me, one of them is that transcendently contented feeling of waking up and hearing people outside get in their cars and drive to work, knowing it’s nothing I’ll ever have to make a habit of.

It’s the immensely gratifying feeling of being able to take good care of my health, through regular, non-rushed meals I make, and the time to exercise.

It’s knowing, workload permitting, that I make the decisions about when I take time off, and for how long.

What experiences have you had as a freelancer that spawn any of the reactions above?

What do you love most about this life?

If you’re not living the life yet, what do you most look forward to?

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Want to be a guest blogger on TWFW Blog? I welcome your contribution to the Well-Fed writing community! Check out the guidelines here.

Here’s How My First “Well-Fed Wednesday” Went (that “Six-Hours-of-Open-Phone-Calling” Thing…)

So, as you might know, I did a pretty cool and fun thing a few Wednesdays ago—my first Well-Fed Wednesday “open-call-free-for-all.” If you missed it, here’s a recap…

Calling it an “energy experiment,” and modeling it after a similar exercise I’d read about (by a master coach), I opened my phone for six hours (10-1, and 3-6) for 10-minute conversations with anyone who called wanting to talk about anything related to commercial writing or self-publishing.

As the 10:00 a.m. starting-bell approached, I had a brief moment of fear: What if no one calls? What if I’m irrelevant? But, alas, that was just my typical “insecure-writer” side talking (part of the DNA of so many of us writers, methinks…). As it turned out, I was yakking for virtually every minute of the six hours…

In those six hours, I took 29 calls, and had a ball. I had no expectations, just an intention to be helpful if I could. A sampling of the calls…

A Bay Area woman looking for help on a tagline for her business

• An author in Vermont looking for tips on landing radio interviews with his book

• A DC-area writer looking into whether expanding into e-books was a viable idea

• A Maryland mom, wanting some tips and encouragement as she revived a once-thriving copywriting practice, abandoned for several years as she fought breast cancer

• A Florida freelancer seeking guidance on pricing trade articles and diplomatically raising rates

• An NYC writer wanting to weigh the pros and cons of writing a book on his writing specialty

• An American writer in New Delhi, India (!) looking for advice on a book she was writing for women wanting to travel to India

• An Atlanta writer with a profitable writing practice based, somewhat precariously, on only two clients, and wanting tips on expanding her client base

• A British woman living in Delaware considering expanding her writing efforts into the commercial realm, and looking for a seasoned perspective

• A copywriter in Cleveland seeking help crafting a snappy title for an annual report

• An Irish writer living in Chicago and looking for ideas for breaking into a specialized field of high-tech marketing writing

• An Arkansas writer with a successful niche, looking for a device in raising rates and branching out to similar clients in other parts of the country

A few observations…

• You can cover a lot in 10 minutes. Few people felt we’d run out of time to soon.

• Everyone was so appreciative and respectful of the 10-minute time limit.

• Given that I couldn’t return calls, I was touched by how many people tried again and again to get through (according to my caller ID log). And, in my very brief lulls, I actually called some of them back.

• Trying to come up with snappy names, titles or headlines is a bit tough to do “on command.” I came through a few times but my best work takes a bit longer…. 😉

• It was really cool to get a small taste of the depth, breadth and variety of writing endeavors people everywhere were engaged in. And I was honored to be privy to the often-moving intersection of those writing ventures and their lives – whether it entailed family issues, raising kids while working, coming back from cancer, living abroad, the big step of trying to leave a job and go freelance, etc.

• Based on the gracious and grateful feedback I received, overall, I apparently delivered some good value.

• I was pretty exhausted at the end of the day.

Thanks to everyone who called, and especially those who didn’t get through. I’m sorry about that, but hopefully, I will catch up with you next time.

And there will be a next time. I’m not sure I have it in me to do it every month, but I’m thinking every other month could work. In fact, I’ll set the next one now, so mark your calendars for November 4th. And, of course, I’ll give you a heads-up as we get closer.

If you managed to get through and talk to me, any comments or feedback?

Any thoughts, comments, questions about this little event?

Want to be a guest blogger on TWFW Blog? I welcome your contribution to the Well-Fed writing community! Check out the guidelines here.

Here’s What Long-Term Freelancers Do to Stay Disciplined. You?

More often than not, when I tell someone (say, at some social or networking event) how long I’ve been a commercial freelancer, people are impressed, often saying, “I could never work for myself; I’m just not disciplined enough.”

Course, my standard answer (somewhere in my book as well) is something like: “Once you get a taste of how great the freelance life is, staying disciplined—at least for me—isn’t all that hard, because you’ll do anything to keep such a sweet gig going.”

Yet, thriving as a freelance commercial writer over the long haul—especially with the numerous economic ups and downs of the past several decades—ain’t easy. So, if you’ve pulled it off, for even the past 5 years (heck, especially the past five years), take a bow. You’ve clearly got strong stuff.

This whole idea of discipline came to mind again as I ran a tip in the November Well-Fed E-PUB last week, from Pittsburgh, PA FLCW Jeff Durosko, about what he does to stay disciplined. Jeff’s in that “strong-stuff” category of folks, having been at it for eight years.

A few of Jeff’s ideas for keeping the rigor in his business life, and most importantly, to treat his business AS a business:

I get up, get dressed (not dressed up, but not in sweats or pajamas either) and get ready just as I did when I worked in the corporate world.

I go to Starbucks after dropping off my daughter at school and head straight back home to my dedicated office where I work through the morning. Having a dedicated office with a door that closes is key to keeping one’s routine. While I may “reopen” that door late at night when the kids are in bed, I don’t let it consume my life.

I must confess, I DO work in my sweats, but then again, I didn’t come from the corporate world, so I’m not trying to emulate that setting. I’m not at my desk at oh-dark-thirty, being more of a 10:00-10:30-ish to 7-ish kind of guy (with a walk or sometimes a bike ride worked into the day somewhere; I intend to enjoy the “free” in “freelance” whenever possible). But, I’m serious about my work, and let my work earn me my breaks.

I could be wrong, but I suspect a lot of folks who say, “I’m just not disciplined enough to run my own business” say that, not because they truly lack discipline (heck, they’ve gotten up every morning and made their way to an office for years, which sure looks like discipline to me, though perhaps it’s just fear…), but because they just haven’t had much practice at it, nor the tools—many of them mental—to stay on track.

Something else I’d say to them: You’ll get used to anything. The idea of freelancing may be new and foreign to you, but once you do it for a while, if you enjoy some success, it’ll quickly ratchet up your belief level in the overall viability of the enterprise—and that’s a HUGE step to transforming that initial success into a more enduring variety. So much of success as a freelancer is mental.

Do you agree (that much of freelance success is mental), and that most people could pull it off if they shifted their thinking?

If you’ve had some long-term freelancing success, what would you tell someone who’s not sure they have the “right stuff,” to make it seem more doable?

When starting out, if you doubted your ability to make it work, but still made it happen, what changed for you?

What strategies, approaches or tips have worked to help keep you on track and thriving over the years?

Want to be a guest blogger on TWFW Blog? I welcome your contribution to the Well-Fed writing community! Check out the guidelines here.

Your Favorite Ideas for Writing Ergonomics, Aesthetics, Functionality, & Work/Life Philosophies, Please…

Got the idea for this post from a picture sent to me by my brother… It was a unique desk arrangement he’d set up for his son. Apparently, my precocious nephew would often wake up in the middle of the night with the compulsion to get online and check this, play that, or research the other. So, to make it optimally easy to have that happen, this setup was born…

Now, he literally has to just roll over in bed, and he’s at his keyboard… Hmmm. Gets you thinking, no? Nah, probably not. We sit on our fat butts enough as it is in what we do. To not even have to get out of bed at all and still be able to do our jobs just seems to be giving entropy more of a helping hand than it really requires… Still.

In any case, I got to thinking about all those cool little ideas we’ve all come across to make our commercial freelancing writing lives a little easier, more comfortable, less stressful, etc.

A few months back in the E-PUB, I talked about (and highly recommended) the Nada-Chair, this nifty thingy I’ve used for years, that makes sitting for long stretches far more comfortable than any expensive chair I’ve ever come across. Looks strange, but it works. Here’s me wearing it…

No smart remarks, please… 😉

Then, a few weeks back, a friend of mine sent me an ingenious idea for keeping all your electronics cables in place and from falling on the floor. No explanation necessary as her picture was truly worth a thousands words…

Smart, eh?

Then there was the “Treadmill Desk” idea one reader sent me. This one has real potential. And this guy is turning it into a cottage industry…

Finally, a few years back, I think I shared a very cool Internet radio station through iTunes called Jet City Lounge, which, for me anyway, makes for wonderful background music. Cool, smooth, nice beat, non-intrusive, and I’m one unbelievably productive commercial writer while it’s running – like now, for instance.

From iTunes, go to Radio, then Ambient, then “Groovera Presents Jet City Lounge”. Or just listen on the web. And if JCL doesn’t float your boat, there are countless others in dozens of channels – all free.

Anyway, so let’s have a little fun here. Send me your ideas (and feel free to include links and pictures). And here are the rules: ONLY stuff like the above; only ideas related to ergonomics, aesthetics, functionality, atmosphere, etc. ONLY stuff related to our physical environment.

NO web-based writing/networking/business resources, software, social media platforms (doesn’t it seem like they multiply like rabbits?), books, etc. Also, I welcome any life philosophies you’ve incorporated into your commercial copywriting work life that have made a big difference for you…

What gadgets and gizmos do you swear by?

What things have you put in place in your physical environment that you just can’t live without?

What fun, cool, smart tips for maximizing your physical productivity, comfort, and office atmosphere have you come across?

What work/lifestyle philosophies have you adopted that “frame” how you approach work, and that improve the quality of your life?

Want to be a guest blogger on TWFW Blog? I welcome your contribution to the Well-Fed writing community! Check out the guidelines here.


When Does Part-Time Copywriting (vs. Full-Time) Make More Sense? (Guest Post)

Thanks to Emily Suess for contributing this great guest post. While most of us probably think in terms of full-time when it comes to our commercial writing careers, there’s no doubt plenty of folks out there for whom part-time would make more sense. Enjoy!


Until recently, when people would ask me what I do, I’d have to make a serious decision. Should I define myself by my day job as an administrative assistant for a synagogue and preschool, or should I define myself by my part-time freelance career as a copywriter and editor? The day job got more of my time; the freelancing got more of my devotion.

Then a few months ago, I came home from a particularly mind-numbing eight hours at the day job. I dropped my keys and purse on the dining room table and started assaulting my boyfriend, Dan, with complaints about the woes of being an early childhood administrative assistant.

I could tell he was getting less patient with the increasing frequency of my rants, but somehow he found the grace to let me complain about the broken printer again. I had a headache, I told him. All thanks to the preschoolers listening to those insipid Miley Cyrus songs again.

On a loop. All day long.

To get to my happy place, I took a dry erase marker and wrote on the white board clinging to my freezer door, “I will be a full-time freelance writer by January 1, 2013.” And by God, I meant it. I would be free, I would be my own boss, and answering questions about my vocation would be so much easier.

Now, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. My nine-to-fiver was a pleasant gig, and I loved my coworkers. But after several years of freelancing on the side, I began to feel the itch.

So it was settled. I would begin the transition, pick up more clients, refine my services, and market myself in earnest. I’d turn my part-time hobby into a full-time, mortgage-paying career.


Just two weeks ago, I gave my notice at work. Only I wasn’t going to be my own boss after all. I accepted a corporate gig complete with cubicle and time clock.

I know, I know. But one of my freelance contacts from a local, well-established company told me about an opening they had for an editor, and the next thing I knew I was peeing in a cup for the pre-employment drug screen.

More than once I had to ask myself if I was a sellout. I decided I was not. The opening was truly serendipitous, and, most importantly, it was in my field.

Being a Part-Timer Has Its Advantages
Maybe I’m just rationalizing or maybe it’s a personality thing, but moonlighting is good for me. Here’s why:

• I can still explore topics and genres. Right or wrong, for me specializing has always been synonymous with restricting. Exploring different avenues is less threatening when you’re part-time, and the need to commit to a niche isn’t an imperative.

• I can wait for the clients to come to me. I still make the first move from time to time, but the majority of my clients find me through my website—like magic. I have to spend very little time searching for work, and that eliminates a lot of cold-calling, querying, and rejection.

• I get to be choosy. If a client relationship isn’t a great fit, I can move on to the next project without wondering if I’ll be able to buy groceries next week.

• I still love being a freelancer. Who knows? Maybe after a year of full-time freelancing I’d be burned out and dying a slow and painful creative death. Now I feel like a kid getting paid to eat candy.

Emily’s Unused “Part-Time to Full-Time” Plan
I won’t need this plan for the foreseeable future, but feel free to take my plan and tweak it for your specific needs.

1. Deliberate on potential niches, selecting one that is both marketable and suited to your education and experience.

2. Increase web visibility through more frequent guest posting and press release distribution.

3. Accept more clients, even if the projects seem boring or tedious.

4. Join professional groups and attend at least one professional conference every year for networking purposes. Hermits make poor businesswomen.

5. Hire a virtual assistant and delegate non-writing tasks to keep up with increased workflow—especially while you are still working the day job. Having someone to schedule and format guest posts, address and send direct mail packets, and compile research frees up more time to write.

Are you a part-timer or a full-timer?

If you are thinking of making the switch, what is the one thing you are most worried about?

If you have already made the switch, how did you know it was time? Was it scary?

Do you have any words of advice for those ready to go it alone?

Emily Suess is a freelance copywriter in Indianapolis and a contributor at Small Business Bonfire. On her blog, Suess’s Pieces, she is currently working her way through the series, The ABCs of Freelance Writing. Reach her at emily@emilysuess.com.

Want to be a guest blogger on The Well-Fed Writer Blog? I welcome your contribution! Check out the guidelines here.