4 January 2011

How Somebody Who Hated Change Decided to Become a Freelance Writer

If you ask anyone, who knows me, they will tell you that I don’t deal well with changes. It’s a God honest truth: I HATE changes. It doesn’t matter how big or how small the change, I will always try to resist and whine about how much I hate the new thing.

To give you an idea of how extreme my dislike for change is: I only eat one type of pizza (or no pizza at all), I dropped out of my studies because getting a degree and defending my thesis was too big of a change from my usual way of doing things (and it took me two years to go back to school), I don’t like meeting new people, because, well, they are new people and they don’t understand how OCD I am about the smallest things.

In fact, my entire writing career moves at a pace everybody else would consider “barely not moving backwards”.

It took me years and meeting very supportive people for me to start writing more seriously in the first place. It took an extremely enthusiastic writing cheerleader to talk me into writing my first novella. I hesitantly wrote what I thought would be a good story but didn’t like the results. But the feedback I got was encouraging, so I decided to try writing another novella the following year... It took two years, a support system and four big fiction projects for me to get comfortable with an idea of writing a novel.

My freelancing career went almost the same.

At the very beginning (back in, I think, May 2008) the idea of receiving payment for my writing seemed rather surreal. I didn’t treat it seriously, so when I stumbled on Helium, I looked around and set up an account, because it seemed harmless.

And I did nothing.

I sat on the brand new account for a few days before I decided to see what the whole thing was about. Because it’s just my luck, I had no idea what to write about, so I randomly searched for an Empty Title and wrote my very first advice article about treating painful periods. I did research on natural remedies to have the knowledge, but I winged everything else.

I knew nothing about a proper article structure for online content, I had no idea what a keyword was and why it was important. I just wrote an article to see what would happen.

Or rather, I was conflicted between wanting to see what would happen and being terribly afraid of what would happen. What if the article was terrible? What if people wouldn’t be interested in what it said? What if the article didn’t earn any money? Or worse, what if IT DID?

In the first week after publishing, the article earned one or two cents from pageviews. I found that idea absolutely terrifying and closed the browser. I didn’t touch Helium for another month after that.

I returned to the site in June and started to write simple opinion pieces on topics I knew from personal experience. Nothing I would have to do research on. The idea that anybody could take me for an expert was too scary.

By the time December rolled in, I was comfortable with an idea of getting paid for my writing, out of curiosity I was reading blogs about freelance writing and publishing articles from time to time.

All the blogs I’ve read seemed unconnected to what I was doing. They were all talking about setting up websites, blogs, pitching editors, being able to pay bills from money earned with writing... The idea of giving up my cozy and safe job to pursue something that earned me cents seemed ridiculous.

Then, by complete accident, I sold an article in Helium Marketplace. After the initial euphoria that somebody liked my article and wanted to pay for it (and after the panic that followed: “what if they change their mind and demand a refund? what if they clicked the wrong button and they really wanted the article next to mine?”) I realized that you can earn more from writing than just cents based on pageviews.

I filed that information away, because “why mess with something that’s working just fine?” But just to be sure, I did some additional research and found online marketplaces like oDesk, Guru and eLance. They all seemed really scary and confusing and there were some fees involved and I decided I really don’t like the idea of exchanging my Helium earnings for what seemed to be very stressful and demanding.

I kept writing for content sites (expanding outside of Helium was a nightmare, but I knew that keeping all my eggs in one basket would be unwise if a dreaded change decided to surprise me).

Nothing changed for a year in my writing career (which I considered to be a good thing, most specialists would never agree with me) but then I started to get bored with my day job. Long time ago I learned to recognize boredom as a first symptom of change and I did what I’ve always done when I felt change coming. I started to make plans how to make that damn change as painless as possible.

Which brings us to six months ago and my new year’s resolution to switch to full time free end of this year.

It’s worth stating that I admire people who can quit their day job and become freelancers in a day. People who take risks are amazing, but I’m not one of them. If there’s a way to avoid the change, I’ll take it. If I need to go through a change, I will hate every moment of the transition.

I need numerous support systems, safety nets, cheerleaders and people who understand that I need to have complete control over the process or my stress levels reach catastrophic very quickly.

At the same time, I love writing. I get huge satisfaction from it and I love looking at the finished product and knowing it’s worth something (I feel even better when other people say the same thing). I want to keep doing it!

And yes, for some, the pace in which my freelance career is moving, might seem unwise, or time-wasting. To some, my choice to keep writing for content sites while I pursue other freelancing options, might seem counterproductive. But the truth is I like the passive income. And another change (in addition to all the changes that will happen to me this year) might be too much for my poor little heart.

I’m optimistic though. I have a plan, which includes several safety nets and contingency plans (and contingency plans to my contingency plans) and for a first time in a very long time I think I might be able to handle the change. That I might even like what it’s going to bring.

Still, I’m not going to jump head first. I’ll keep poking at the idea, moving forward slowly. It’s going to take some time to get where I want to be. But it’s okay.


Vivian Marie said...

This is a fantastic post! Thank you for sharing your story. I am totally the same way--I absolutely HATE change and meeting new people scares me half to death--so I'm thrilled that I'm not alone! :) I think you have a wonderful story here about how you got started and your journey to get where you are now... I admire your courage!

I can't wait to see you continue on your way! <3

Jane Rutherford said...

Thanks so much. I was hesitant about posting it, but I decided it should be out there. And you can't believe how happy I am to hear that I'm not the only one with so much problems with change :)

Maybe we'll be able to support each other!