Friday, June 17, 2011

To Freelance, or Not To Freelance?

Back in the day, when I first left my high-powered job in higher education marketing and public relations (chuckle, chuckle), I began freelancing, with a focus on the business sector. Brochure copy, website copy, that sort of thing. I’ve been thinking lately that I should get back to it.

And then I think maybe not.

There are definite “pros” to freelance business writing, in my experience. It’s quick, clean, and easy. You get an assignment, you’re given most (if not all) of the information you need to put the assignment together, you have a deadline, and, after a relatively brief period of time (a couple days, a week, a month) you turn in the assignment. After another brief wait (in most cases a month, but possibly longer) you get paid. Usually a tidy sum of money. Certainly more than most fiction writers are used to seeing in a single check.

But there are some “cons” as well. Resentment being one of them. Now why, you might ask, would anyone resent something as innocuous as freelancing? Especially if it pays well?

Because it ate up my writing time with projects I didn’t care about.

I posted a while back about the limited time I have each day to write. Two or three hours in the afternoon, on a good day. Often less. This is the challenge of writing with small children in the house (and being “blessed” with the super-human ability to fall asleep anywhere, any time, typically around in the evening). So each day during my freelancing career, when I’d sit down to write up a brochure on asbestos removal or prepare web content on Pennsylvania’s fresh water fisheries, I would grumble inside, “I should be working on my own stuff!”

So I stopped. I dedicated myself to my creative work. I started graduate school to fully immerse myself in the experience. And I’ve felt fulfilled ever since.

But, as anyone who writes creatively will tell you, while the personal/emotional/spiritual rewards can be great, the monetary ones are…well, not so much (typically). Take my novel, for example. I’m going on six years of uncompensated writing time. Granted, I haven’t been plugging away at it forty hours a week over those six years, but I’ve logged at least a couple hundred hours on this piece. This piece that hasn’t yet earned me a dime. And might never.

That’s the rub of creative work. It may or may not ever pay off, financially speaking. And that can be frustrating when you’re trying to keep two sprouting kids in long-enough pants, a never-ending list of school supplies, and dance/karate/soccer/scouting fees on a single income.

Hence my reason for pondering freelancing again. I’d love to hear thoughts from others walking the walk.


Elizabeth-Anne said...

Sue, this is why I tutor--I love the experience, only resent the prep when I am in WAY over my head, and feel that any curriculum I develop may later turn into dividends (at least I may get to reuse it with a little retooling on another student).

I totally agree on the resentment of freelancing, though. This is why I only edit foreign students' theses and dissertations. There is at least something I can do to help. It is more than catching punctuation and changing everything into a uniform pattern.

I've been thinking about magazines though. They don't pay badly and seem to offer more creative outlet. I'm thinking of giving it a try when AJ goes to school in the fall. Any thoughts? Have you tried this one yet?

Sue Nelko Carr said...

Haven't. I don't really do non-fiction, and my fiction pieces have a way of running off and becoming novels :-). Something to consider, though. I love the teaching/tutoring idea. I'm hoping to look for something in that field after I finish my degree next spring.