I had an epiphany early this week. As freelance job after freelance job snapped into place, I realized that if I had to, I could probably make this freelancing thing work on a full-time basis. It might not be pretty a lot of the time, but it would work . . . if it had to.
You see, at the end of last month, money was feeling a little tight. So I decided to stop letting that line on my weekly to-do list - "3 queries" - not go unchecked yet another week. I sent out three queries to publications I'd previously worked with and I got a thumbs up on all of three queries. Then, wonder of wonders, some of the articles that I'd gotten through those queries lead to more paying opportunities and suddenly I was riding a wave of freelance jobs and opportunities.
Obviously, things aren't always like this - for every lucrative writing month like this one, there'll be an equal, if not greater, dry spell when it comes to writing gigs.
I keep my day job to see me through those dry spells. But sometimes, it feels that I spent far too much time tangled up in the safety net that is my day job. Often I feel the day job holding me back rather than merely keeping me on my feet and I wonder what would happen if I simply left it behind me.
This week, I realized, things would probably be okay sans day job. I'm just not willing to sit around and let ends not meet. Over the last few weeks, I've proven than I can fairly easily step up my earning potential when needs be.
Which brings me to the point of this post. . . .
My writing has turned into a business. Sure, I write because, as Sylvia Plath said "there's a voice within me that will not be still." But sometimes, I think it's bills rather than artistic vision that keeps that voice within chattering away. I write to get paid.
The farther down the freelance writing road I go, the more imperative it becomes that I get paid for my words. I hate to think I wouldn't write if I didn't get paid for it, but at this point in my life, I have limited amounts of time every day and I need to invest my time carefully for the best payout. Heck, even the blog's monetized a just enough to get it to pay for its annual domain renewal.
But as an English major, someone who raised to see writing as more of an art form than a livelihood, all this talk of monetizing feels, well, a little yucky. Shouldn't writers just be happy to be writing and creating? I truly enjoy the vast majority of freelance writing gigs I take, but there's also a thrill in knowing I'm being paid a certain word rate to research and write. Does that mean I've sold out?
Case in point . . . . A couple years back, I started doing a bi-weekly commentary for the local radio station. (You can link to it up above "Of Woods and Words On Air".) At the time, I was just starting to seriously pursue freelance writing. I didn't have many paying gigs and I happily started writing and recording the commentary for free because it seems like good writing practice and great platform building.
But lately the commentary has become a pain in my B-U-T-T. Between writing and recording the commentary, I probably spend about 2.5 hours every two weeks on the commentary, not to mention the two-hour round trip to the studio to record it and the hassle of reserving a studio, etc. In the past year, the writing for the commentary's gone flat. I feel constantly at a loss for topics. It's easy to wonder if it's really worth it.
It seems to me I have two options with the commentary at this point, (well, three, if you consider sucking it up and continuing to record it on biweekly basis) each equally shallow:
Option 1) Ditch the commentary. Shallow because, really, I'm going to ditch an obligation because it doesn't pay me? But, but, I'm also perceptually stuck for ideas and it seems like the writing gets worse and worse as the weeks go by. Is it good business, even if I'm not getting paid, to stick my name on writing I'm not particularly proud of?
Option 2) Attempt to monetize the commentary. Continue to do the commentary for free for the local station, but either syndicate or find a paying market for each commentary. Shallow, obviously, since apparently the only way I find value in my writing is if I'm getting paid for it. On the other hand, getting paid for writing really does increase the value of the writing to me, which in turn should mean that the writing in the commentaries would improve.
They say it always boils down to money and I suppose that's true, even for dreamy, impractical writers. But as much as I delight in my freelance writing business success, it's sad to watch writing for pleasure disappear from my life, at least for the time being.
Have you ever had a hobby turn into business? Any tips for maintaining a business while remaining artistically true to yourself?