Freelance Journalism - Taking the Plunge

  Deciding to Go Freelance

stephanie l. freid

           When I took the leap into full-time freelance writing in the mid 90’s the decision was based mostly upon misery. 

           I had moved from Tel Aviv to San Francisco and I was working the temp agency admin job circuit to support myself while searching for a professional niche.  In Israel I had enjoyed a fulfilling and time consuming career as a professional writer, producer and correspondent for reputable international news organizations. In San Francisco, however, I opted for the path of the UNKNOWN.

           Something creative, something in film perhaps, something with writing, I don’t know, I thought.  Aren’t those grandiose plans of self-re-invention funny in the face of reality’s monthly rent and bill deadlines? 

           I sat in my temp-job cubicle at Macromedia one day facing a very vague future. And I silently wept.  Silently because the cubicle maze was a Catch-22:  You can’t see anyone but you hear everything: phone calls to girlfriends, paper shuffling, the girl crying the next box over. I wept because I was frustrated and the isolation of cubicle-ism was overwhelming. 

           I realized right then and there that I couldn’t work a standard 9-5 job.  At least not in a place where “Corporate Cubicle Hell” would rob me of sanity and spirit.  I’ll do freelance journalism!  If Joey**, who pulllleeeze we all know how effective HE was – NOT - can make a go of it, then of course I can too.. went my train of thought.  Defiantly, I then sealed my newfound executive decision with a gleeful overhead lift of the skirt and a cubicle curtsy performed in private.  After all, they only hear what goes on inside the box; nobody sees it. 

           What followed was months of struggle.  I continued working temp jobs but was now invigorated by My Vision and Plan.  I  visited the library to study up on the freelance writing industry, researched freelance writing online, bought a copy of The Writer’s Market, tapped into old contacts, established new contacts, set up informational interviews with editors and professional writers, attended author book signings to search for clues to success and ask questions, wrote for free to get my name out there, wrote for schlock publications & wrote for reputable magazines. 

           Getting started felt hugely uncomfortable because it was all a learning curve and learning curves feel strange, no way around it.  Plus, I was taking on the business and financial management of my career – aspects of the job I had previously left to a corporate accountant.  Queries, invoices, billing procedures, follow-up calls, rates, taxes…all new material.  But again, if Joey** could do it…

           It has taken years to learn the ins and outs of freelance writing and I am still constantly taking in new information, establishing new writing venues, tweaking my writing and business styles and running with the herd to stay current as the industry shifts and changes. 

        Do I think about going back to corporate-sponsored, full time work?  You bet.  Especially when story grabs are lean, accountants are slow to put checks in the mail and the “what if’s” hover: What if I go blind?  What if this dry streak never ends?  What if the Nikkei Index goes flat because of an earthquake and all the magazines go out of business and newspapers aren’t printed because there aren’t any trees and…?? 

         Of course, if the job offer of the decade came along I wouldn’t stand on ceremony.  I’m an enterprising capitalist just like the gal/guy the next cubicle over.  But I would probably want to work out an office-telecommute-freelance deal because I love the freedom independent writing presents. 

         In the meantime, Joey** and the cubicle memory keep me keeping on. 

**You didn’t think I’d give you his real name, did you?