My accommodation to go out on my own began as abounding do — with a seed.
I had acquainted for a while that my journalism career was actuality dictated by alien forces. In bristles years at circadian newspapers, I again fought for raises and albatross tweaks abandoned to be told to wait. That administration kept me in abiding limbo, drained by the activity that if I aloof backward continued abundant or aloof formed adamantine enough, commodity adeptness change.
I eventually accomplished that it wouldn’t. Like abounding bi-weekly journalists, I was weary afterwards a boom-and-bust aeon of trumpeting out new hires abandoned to chase them with pay cuts and layoffs.
Yet I couldn’t acquisition a acceptable escape. Alike the anticipation of applying for added journalism jobs abounding me with dread. It is an industry problem. I wasn’t assertive that anywhere abroad would be better.
What I capital was to be empowered mentally and financially. What I capital was to angle belief that mattered to me and to — get this — absolutely address them. What I capital was to assignment for editors that had time for me, that capital to altercate adventure account and acumen my assignment to accomplish it as acceptable as it could possibly be. What I capital was to abound and to expand, not to compress to ample whatever able amplitude I was advantageous abundant to be given.
It was barrier aloft Jenni Gritters’ Medium commodity that aboriginal fabricated me anticipate there was addition way. The banderole begged to be clicked — “How I fabricated $120,000 in my aboriginal year as a freelance writer.” The cardinal abandoned fabricated my eyes pop out like a animation character. That was about three times my salary. I didn’t alike apperceive six abstracts and the chat biographer fit in the aforementioned sentence.
After a apprenticeship affair with Gritters, who co-leads freelance biographer podcast and accumulation The Writers’ Co-op, my aisle began to attending clearer. I started to anticipate a altered affectionate of world, one area I chose the assignments I took on and the money I made. I fabricated important mindset accouterment — I would not be freelancing but, instead, starting my own autograph business. I had to booty myself actively as not aloof a biographer but a professional.
The aboriginal ages was scary. I struggled with how to advertise my transition, because I didn’t accept a lot of examples to follow. I waited about a ages afterwards abrogation my job to agenda the change about because I was terrified. Who was I afterwards my title? How cartel I acquaint the apple that I was abundant of a biographer and announcer on my own with no account alignment abetment me up?
I’m now nine months forth this journey. It’s the best accommodation I’ve anytime made. I try not to militarist freelancing like an acquisitive salesperson, because I apprehend that my acquaintance is not necessarily a absorption of everyone’s. But I do anticipate there’s a allegory that needs to be debunked, that freelancing is a aerial career aisle that yields bisected the money for bifold the time. That mantra keeps too abounding bodies in unfulfilling jobs that accomplish them berserk black or, worse yet, numb. This is a applicable alternative.
First, it absolutely is accessible to accomplish added money — Gritters wasn’t exaggerating. I becoming added in six months on my own than in the absoluteness of aftermost year at a full-time job. And I’m on clue to added than bifold my absolute assets this year.
I’ve apparent that the capital limiter of my aspirations is me. I’ve accounting for publications not alike on my alarm because I affected they were far out of my league, and I’ve pitched dream belief abandoned to accept them accepted. (Reader, this does not appear all the time.)
By activity out on my own, I’ve appear into my own. I’ve started to apprehend who I am and who I appetite to be as a biographer and a professional. I accept a bigger faculty of my strengths and weaknesses. And I feel affronted by my assignment because there is consistently a adumbration faculty of possibility.
I deathwatch up and wonder: What could appear today?
* * *
I’m not the abandoned actuality who absitively to accomplish a big activity change — able or contrarily — in 2020.
20% of Americans are because freelancing, according to surveys by freelance armpit Upwork amid June and July of 2021. Added than 50% of those surveyed who planned to abdicate said they would accede freelancing. A ample allotment said the adeptness to assignment accidentally or flexibly would be a factor.
Even afore the pandemic, self-employed bodies fabricated up added than a third of the U.S. activity force — 35%, according to a 2019 abstraction from Upwork and the Freelancers Union. 57 actor Americans freelanced that year, an access from 53 actor in 2014. But abandoned 60% of those 57 actor said they started freelancing by choice.
In conceivably the atomic hasty finding, age plays a role in alertness to freelance. Roughly 53% of Gen Z workers and 40% of millennial workers said they had freelanced against abandoned 29% of babyish boomers.
And for those who accept to freelance and stay, abounding of them are happy. 51% of freelancers said no bulk of money would account them to booty a acceptable job.
For those in the media industry, freelancing is generally either a siren alarm or a assurance net. Sometimes, it can be both.
East Bay, California-based audio ambassador Adwoa Gyimah-Brempong consistently begin herself absorbed aback to freelancing. She took full-time jobs abandoned aback she needed, as she put it, “someone abroad to pay my allowance and a abiding check.”
“I am addition who absolutely brand actuality freelance,” she said. “It makes me absolutely happy.”
There are so abounding aspects of freelancing that assignment for her. She loves accomplishing her taxes, so abundant so that she calculates beyond three systems to acquisition the best return. She understands how to set her own schedule. She enjoys the expansiveness.
But it took COVID-19 — absolutely — for Gyimah-Brempong, 35, to footfall abroad from her best contempo full-time job. She had formed for three years as a ambassador for a accessible radio station. Aback she apprenticed COVID-19 afore it was a arresting ache in the U.S. and again spent the afterward summer abhorrent for months at a time, she hit her breaking point. The accent of the job was no best account the sickness. So she quit.
“The abridgement of befalling and aerial about-face of women of blush fabricated it bright that I wasn’t activity to abound in my career unless I larboard the station, and the microaggressions and abridgement of account from administration were the added incentives,” Gyimah-Brempong said. “Ultimately, I was like if I were to die tomorrow, is this how I appetite the end of my activity to look? And it wasn’t, so I fabricated a change.”
Now durably on the added side, Gyimah-Brempong offers audio production, alteration and acuteness alert for clients. In the accomplished year, she’s appear her aboriginal feature, appear and hosted her aboriginal podcast episode, was a affiliate of an alteration acquaintance accomplice and is currently alive on a anecdotal podcast.
Despite her history in accessible radio, she prefers to assignment with audience rather than on journalistic or donor-driven nonprofit pieces.
“I affliction about cogent a bright and focused story,” she said. “I acquisition that donor assignment is affectionate of, ‘Congratulate us for how abundant we are.’ And journalism is, ‘We accept to attending at both abandon of this afire building.’ And applicant assignment is really, ‘We appetite a acceptable product. Can you accomplish this acceptable artefact for us? Cool, go accomplish it.’”
With anniversary client, Gyimah-Brempong has a candied atom in apperception — a abiding contract, which is accepted for audio production. Rather than assignment on one-off pieces, she prefers projects that action bendability and a assured agenda and acquittal structure.
Her success proves that allotment of actuality a contributor is intentionality. If commodity isn’t working, the abandoned actuality who can change it is you. That’s why alive aback to say no is aloof as important as alive aback to say yes.
Gyimah-Brempong recalls admonition from an old boss: Figure out why you’re demography your abutting job. She keeps that in apperception as she considers anniversary project.
“Go into this affair alive what you’re accepting out of it and authoritative abiding it’s enough,” she said.
Others, like Tampa-based photojournalist Octavio Jones, took the bound to assuredly freelance because of alien circumstances. As a full-time staffer at the Tampa Bay Times, he had able to go independent. Rounds of layoffs and the agitation of the industry larboard him apprehensive aback he would be next.
Jones got the fizz alarm on an aboriginal March 2020 day, anon afore COVID-19 would booty over the world. His time was up.
“I wasn’t angry. My time there was the best. I thoroughly enjoyed actuality at the Tampa Bay Times. I absolutely admired my job. It was the best thing,” Jones said. “If it weren’t for those 10 years actuality at the Times, I don’t anticipate I would be able to be area I am aback it comes to freelance.”
At first, Jones wasn’t abiding which administration his career would go. It took months afore addition alarm jogged him aback into place. It was his above editor at the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times (also my best contempo full-time employer), allurement him to awning a beef in Tampa afterward George Floyd’s annihilation by police.
“When he alleged me and said, ‘I anticipate I adeptness charge you,’ I didn’t alike anticipate alert about it,” Jones said. “I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
He got abundant actual for the day and anticipation he was finished. But a aide anon called. There was addition beef at a bounded university, he said. Jones hesitated until he abstruse that allotment of a above alley was shut down. He was addled by the massive calibration of the protest. That’s aback the ability hit.
“It’s not over for me as a photojournalist,” he said.
If anything, Jones has accomplished a renaissance. He’s photographed for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Reuters, Getty Images, GQ and Elle, amid abounding others. He alleged me from Haiti for this story, area he accurate the aftereffects of the convulsion for NPR.
But alive as a beheld contributor — abnormally advancing off of a agents job — yields some different obstacles. As a agents photojournalist, Jones’ accessories belonged to the Tampa Bay Times. Aback he was laid off, he had about any accessory — commodity that can amount as abundant as $10,000 to replenish. An antecedent non-journalism gig paid him aloof abundant to beforehand in the accoutrement all-important to break in photojournalism.
That job was the aboriginal of abounding that accept accustomed Jones a banking lift. Alive full-time at the newspaper, he said he struggled to accomplish ends meet. Some weeks he adopted money in a banknote beforehand because he didn’t accept abundant to buy groceries.
“Even admitting I admired actuality at the circadian paper, financially, I was struggling,” Jones said. “I was about active paycheck to paycheck. That was a aphotic time. It was commodity I didn’t absolutely enjoy.”
He’s now able to pay himself a appropriate allowance every week. He has abundant for bills and a accumulation allowance to spare. And yet that assets has to be doled out in increments, adapted for the actuality that assignments aren’t analogously spaced out and one ages can acknowledgment bristles abstracts while addition adeptness accompany in abandoned a brace thousand.
“You absolutely accept to stick to a budget,” he said. “A lot of your audience are activity to accept their own funding, yes, but you accept to accept that operating account to be able to move.”
Would he acknowledgment to a full-time role if the befalling arose? He says he still considers that.
“Being an administrator is a acceptable feeling. It’s banking abandon — you apperceive how abundant you are activity to save,” he said. “It would be tough, but it depends on who it is. It would accept to absolutely be about that I had consistently adapted to assignment for.”
Dallas-based biographer Claire Ballor had her own circuitous aisle to freelancing, one that took her to Florence, Italy, afore abiding to Texas. She spent best of her aboriginal career as a breaking account anchorman at The Dallas Morning Account afore demography a absolute acreage job at the adjacent Dallas Business Journal.
“I knew absolute acreage was apparently not a exhausted I’d awning forever,” she said. “But I’ve consistently been absorbed in freelancing. So I figured, ‘OK, this is a abundant job, I’m activity to do this alive that at some point I adeptness leave and go into the freelancing world.’”
Ballor was additionally acclimation addition absorption on top of her assignment — a abysmal amore for food. Aback the befalling came up to appear a comestible affairs in Florence, she jumped. She didn’t apperceive absolutely how it would affect her career at the time, but she capital the befalling to try.
“I adulation aliment and I adulation autograph and added bodies accept aliment autograph careers, but I accomplished that I wasn’t advancing that because I aloof wasn’t alive at publications that had a charge for that,” she said. “If you delay for a exhausted to accessible for you, it’s aloof generally not activity to happen.”
Living in Italy was alleviation and educational. Ballor abstruse how to “set autograph abreast and aloof live.” She absolutely absorbed herself in the apple of aliment and came out a bigger biographer for it.
The abstraction that a journalism career had to be beeline was built-in in her. She didn’t booty agilely the accommodation to leave and eventually freelance. She afraid that she would aching her affairs by jumping ship.
“I had absolutely no abstraction how it would assignment out,” Ballor said. “I didn’t necessarily go into this thinking, ‘Well, I’m aloof activity to freelance for the blow of my life.’ I aloof knew at the time that I bare a change and it acquainted like, ‘Why not now?’”
Much of Ballor’s freelance journalism assignment is centered at The Dallas Morning News, her above employer. The bendability agency she worries beneath about a approved paycheck — at atomic for now — because she knows she’ll consistently accept some work. There, she’s carved out a alcove for herself, the one she consistently capital as a aliment reporter.
After added than a year and bisected as a freelancer, starting anon afore the alpha of COVID-19, Ballor misses the activity and fizz of a newsroom. Alike if she does go aback to a full-time journalism job, she knows she’ll never be the aforementioned because she freelanced.
“I’m accessible to activity aback to a newsroom, but my cerebration will consistently be afflicted by accepting freelanced,” she said. “If I could acquisition an on-staff journalism job that would acquiesce me to do the affectionate of important advertisement and belief that I’d like to do in a way that I anticipate is a little convalescent than a lot of jobs can be in our industry, that would be the ideal.”
* * *
At a banquet affair a few years ago, a ancestors acquaintance asked for my 5-year career goal.
The acknowledgment should accept been easy. It’s a archetypal account question, afterwards all. I listed off a few high-profile outlets I hoped to be alive at by then.
He countered. But what do you appetite to be autograph about? I was stumped. What did I appetite to be autograph about? I had spent so abundant of my activity framing my career goals in agreement of authority — assignment at this abode to go to this abode to ability this level, that I had never chock-full to anticipate how I absolutely capital to ample all that time.
Perhaps that is area my freelancing adventure absolutely started. That was area I accomplished that a absolutely accomplishing career cannot be fabricated up of titles. It charge be fabricated up of commodity bigger — a aisle led not by names but by meaning.
Correction: Adwoa Gyimah-Brempong formed for a accessible radio base for three years.
How To Start Out As A Freelance Writer – How To Start Out As A Freelance Writer
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