Passion, Shmassion.

You remember that writing course I told you guys I was taking?

A quick glance at today’s assignment tells me it’s going to be a doozy. Why, you ask?

Because it’s all about finding your passions.

You see, I’m a person of very few passions, if any. Certainly not many I could fill a whole blog writing about. I care about plenty of things, sure — the environment, social welfare, common freakin’ decency — but I don’t think I know enough about or am passionate enough about any of them.

What does passion even really mean, any way?

People say that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That if you follow your passions, you’ll always be happy. But that assumes that you’re passionate about something you can make money doing!

True enough, I’ve followed what I guess you could call my passion for proper grammar (yes, I’m that weird) and I’m making a living as a writer, proofreader and copy editor. I often think I should spend more time writing about how to become a freelancer; to help other people with creative minds take the leap from corporate cog to sole proprietor. But if I’m being honest…

I have no idea how to do that.

I mean, I’m doing OK, don’t get me wrong. But I have a lot of cushions that many others don’t, and I haven’t felt the fear of missing rent because I was unable to secure enough work. I have a husband with a good job who values my happiness higher than any income, and a good network of former coworkers and friends who send work my way. How can I sit on my throne of lies telling people how to make it as a freelancer? I’m not making it on my own; I have a tremendous amount of help and support.

And the real truth is — I wouldn’t know how to pitch a publication or other service to save my life. I’m a terrible sales person, particularly when it comes to selling myself. It’s part of why I’m taking this class in the first place, to figure out what exactly I have to offer and how to offer it.

Maybe that’s how everyone figures out this freelance gig, who knows. Maybe I’m not the only person who has no idea what she’s doing 80 percent of the time.

But even if that’s the case, do we really need another case of the blind leading the blind?

So I turn away from freelance advice, and back to the drawing board. What else do I care about?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

I love dogs, but no one needs another person rambling about how dogs are awesome.

I love food, but I would never even attempt to enter the food blog arena. Talk about shouting into a void.

I love beer, but you can only write about that so many times before your family tries to stage an intervention.

I suppose you could say a growing interest of mine is female health education. Call it a symptom of what I’ve been going through for the last year, but it’s truly appalling the amount of misinformation out there about the female anatomy. Girls who are lucky get a quick gloss over it all during sex ed; girls who aren’t so lucky, who don’t even have sexual education in their schools, are often left clueless as to how their bodies actually work.

It’s embarrassing that we leave such important information out of our education. That because it has to do with a woman’s insides (EEK! GASP! CLUTCH PEARLS!) it’s best if we don’t talk about it at all and just hope for the best down the line.

So yeah, maybe I’m passionate about that. But I’m not a physician; writing blog after blog about female reproductive education isn’t going to boost my business in any way. Hell, depending on the person, it might even chase some clients off. That’s certainly not what I’m going for.

Back to the drawing board, again.

Most likely, this blog will always be a place for these random musings to come out, a place where you’ll just hear me blab (and therefore will never get many hits). But I’m working toward finding the right voice for my business blog, and it’s not been easy.

That’s freelancing for you. Too much time to think and not enough direction.

Heh. Maybe it should be a freelancer tips blog after all.

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Half a year, half a lifetime away.

I can’t believe it.

It’s been six months (and change) since I became a freelancer.

Since I last wrote, I’ve secured a retainer with one of my clients! Negotiating a retainer for marketing and content services has been key to making this freelance thing work – it provides a steady baseline of work (and income) so we know at minimum what I’ll be contributing to the budget for the next few months. This has been a huge weight off my shoulders, and I’m thrilled to be working with this team to get the company off and running.

Aside from that, I’m afraid life has been mostly uneventful. As you probably know from the news, this winter has been a doozie, dumping snow and ice all over the midwest. For me, that means getting out even less than normal, because let’s face it: if I don’t have to go anywhere when there’s snow and ice on the ground, I’m not going anywhere.

To be honest, I cannot even begin to describe how ready I am for the spring. The winter has been downright depressing, sucking the motivation right out of me.  I feel lazy and lethargic and I go to bed every night feeling somewhat unaccomplished. But today, today is different. It’s right around 60 degrees and I have the windows open, took the dogs for a walk and actually have some desire to clean the house.

It’s crazy what a little fresh air can do for the soul.

Evidently it even makes me think writing a complete blog post about absolutely nothing is a good idea.

Oh well. Here’s hoping the motivation sticks around and I come up with something better to say next time.

Day 37: Totally legit

Whoa, looks like you guys actually missed me!

Or maybe it was a slow news(feed) day yesterday. Either way, thanks for showing some love!

Right, back to business.

Speaking of business, I actually managed to get myself down to the county clerks office and register as a sole proprietorship! For the past few weeks, I’ve been back and forth in my mind over the right way to set everything up. Today I finally took the dive, registered the business and even registered my trade name!

Don’t get too excited. I’ll be sharing that secret for another day.

But for anyone here who is actually reading this for the freelance insights, there’s one thing I learned in the process: Get out of your own head and just get things done.

I’m an over-thinker. I want to make sure things are done right the first time and I don’t like to admit I don’t know things. So when it came to setting up this business, and when I realized I had no idea what I was doing, I turned chicken. Finally, after a stressful helpful conversation with Darrell, I finally made everything official as a sole proprietor.

What does that mean, exactly? While I’m still figuring that out (and will certainly need some tax help come next April), it basically allows me to run the business without some of headaches of creating and separating my business from my personal life. Sure, when I suddenly become wildly successful and need multiple minions to write for me, I may have to consider a different structure, but for now, it’s one for all and all for sole proprietorship.

Stay tuned, too: I’m hoping to revamp this site with a slightly more official look very soon.

Day 13: A case of the non-Mondays

I gotta admit, sending Darrell off to work this morning knowing I wouldn’t be following was a little weird.

OK a lot weird.

OK I felt completely out of place.

I promised myself I’d hit the ground running today, but the question quickly became one of priorities. I’m at home, so the house should be clean; I’m looking for freelance work, so it’s less important to do laundry; I’m not working, so I should be applying for jobs. It’s a crazy conundrum made no less confusing by the fact that my dogs really, really want my attention when I’m home.

So I felt off, like I was stuck somewhere between vacation, unemployment and housewife. I can’t say I’m surprised, but I can say it’s clear it will take a lot more discipline than I had today to make every week as productive as if I were actually reporting to a desk every day.

Today was officially my first non-Monday, and as confusing as it was, I’m so glad to have had it. Now, every day is just another day, and as I continue to work through what it means to be a full-time freelancer (sounds contradictory, doesn’t it?), I’m sure I’ll figure it all out.

Tuesdays are never this dramatic.

Day 7: Writers, the original humble braggers?

Writers like to tell stories. We create characters that act out lives that are often not different than our own. We use our words in ways that many people simply can’t, crafting a tale that evokes emotion, sparks creativity or fascinates the imagination of a child.

In my case, I tell business stories that convince you to buy, act, or believe – but that’s besides the point.

The point is, a large percentage of us are completely content being ghostwriters, meaning we get no public credit for the work we do. We’re happy being behind the scenes, hidden behind pen names or shielded by a corporate byline.

So what happens when we step out? What happens when we decide to take on the business end of writing and take on clients as freelancers?

We sell ourselves short, that’s what.

Let’s backtrack, here. As I mentioned in my first 100-day challenge post, I’m going to be chronicling my foray into freelance copywriting and editing. While I’ve been writing for years, taking the reins and creating a business of my own has been daunting.

One area of constant struggle for me, and apparently for most writers, comes in setting up our fee structure. I’m always wondering whether my prices are fair, in line with the industry and commensurate with the level of quality I provide.

I got a bit of a reality check today while catching up on some blog reading. In a very pointed and interesting post, Dean Rieck calls us out:

I know that many writers aren’t great with numbers or comfortable talking about money. Maybe it’s because the world has beaten you down until you think you aren’t worth more than a French Fry Jockey.

But whatever it is, we need to get this straightened out, because if I ever meet you and learn that you’re working for next to nothing, I’ll have to kick your ass. Because you’re not only robbing yourself, you’re making things difficult for every other writer out there who wants to make a good living.

I won’t continue too far into his post, but reading it makes me realize that unfortunately, he’s exactly right. Writing and editing come naturally to me, sure; that doesn’t mean I should pretend it isn’t hard work. When people follow what they’re passionate about, its supposed to come naturally – that shouldn’t lessen its value.

I think this post, and many more like it, are a much needed wake up call to copywriters. If you’re not charging what your work is worth, you’re hurting not only yourself, but others in the industry.

So where do I stand?

I’m a firm believer in project costs as a benefit to both the client and the copywriter. I’m also a believer in honesty and integrity, and when I quote you a price, I’ll stick to it.

As writers, it’s our responsibility to provide high-value content and to communicate that value to our clients.

It’s time we all stop humble bragging and just get back to work.

Day 6: Case of the Mondays

Oof. We found it, friends: the first Monday of the 100-day Challenge.

Mondays are especially hard for me, as we have a team creative meeting after the workday more or less ends, starting at 5:00 and running until 6:00 or 6:30.

Yes. Someone on our team thought the creative juices would be flowing at 5:00 p.m. on Monday. I’ll give you a hint: no, it wasn’t me.

So after working a roughly 8-to-5 workday, I finally left the office a little after 6:30. Luckily for me, I saw an email from a freelance client as I was walking out the door.

I say a freelance client like I have many. So far it’s just the one. But she’s awesome, so that helps.

And while I didn’t have the energy to cook or do the dishes – thank goodness for a helpful husband – I definitely had the energy to help her with a little proofreading.

That got me thinking. I say often I’m a better writer than an editor, that I genuinely enjoy proofreading. And while that second part is certainly true, I wonder if it’s not so much that I’m not a good writer, but that by the time I make time to write, I’m exhausted and my brain is shot.

Regardless, there’s something infinitely satisfying and soothing about proofreading. It’s simple even at its most complex; it’s straightforward, direct, obvious in many ways to someone like me who knows what she’s looking for. I assume its like how people who are good at math (I hear those people exist) are able to look at a problem and where others see chaos, find calm in knowing there’s a right and a wrong way to proceed.

I read somewhere that once you learn to edit, you’ll never again be able to read without errors jumping at you from the page.

And even at the end of a very long Monday, it’s fun to watch those errors jump.

Diving in head first: My 100-day writing challenge

I don’t know about you, but when I set out to do something, I have a tendency to…

Procrastinate. Change gears. Shift thoughts. Become doubtful. And ultimately, not always finish what I set out to do.

That ends today.

Today, I’m diving right into a self-imposed 100-day writing challenge. And it’s as simple as it sounds: write something in this blog every single day, for 100 days.

But Ally, why 100 days?

Somewhat arbitrary, somewhat necessary, 100 days seems like the perfect length of time to create a habit. It could also be that I’ve recently been visiting 100 Days of Real Food, a site about healthy eating, and the number 100 is just implanted in my head. And while I probably could use 100 days straight of eating better, that’s a story for another day.

But Ally, what’s the point of this challenge?

The truth is, I would classify myself as a better editor than writer. Whether that’s because I write all day at work and the idea fountain has run dry by the evenings, I don’t know, but until I’m able to spend all day watching the clouds pass to kickstart my creativity, the next best thing I can do to improve my writing is to simply do more of it.

But Ally, what will you talk about every day, for 100 days?

I’m glad you asked, umm, other Ally! This is the part I’m most excited about. Let’s just say the spirit of the entrepreneur has rubbed off on me since working at a startup, and the desire to do more than simply work for other people is taking hold. And as a writer and editor, there are a lot of resources available for building a business; however, I want to share with you my journey of becoming my own boss, not just what I’ve learned once I get there.

And while I hope this journey serves as a guideline and not a cautionary tale for people trying to break into freelancing (is that a thing?), I’m going to share it with you either way. I’ll try to stick just to writing about writing and editing here; but I do a little bit of rambling about health and fitness at Carrots & Cookies. Because yes, for the girl who has trouble thinking of things to say, it obviously makes sense to run two blogs.

But Ally, who starts a 100-day challenge on the 24th of the month?

I realize, it’s weird, and I asked myself this very question. Why wouldn’t I wait to start until the beginning of the month? The answer is simple: if the point of all this is to create a positive habit, why would I want to put that off? Besides, ‘beginnings’ are arbitrary anyway – what makes one day any different than the next?

For the sake of getting this challenge started as quickly as possible, I say not a darn thing.

Day 1, in the books.