Freelancing is a lot like eating a grapefruit without the proper spoon sometimes. It can be frustrating, barely rewarding, and energy consuming. Sometimes, it feels like you spend more energy trying to dig out just a little more fruit or juice with a blunt spoon. But once you’ve finally eaten the fruit and are squeezing the last drops of juice into your poorly paired spoon, you miss and spill the juice all over your shirt.
Or is that just me? Even better.
Over the past month, I’ve blogged my butt off for Birmingham Restaurant Week and been contacted by three different new clients. I’ve invoiced for more money this month than any other since I started freelancing full-time — a welcome change after having to dip into my savings in July. Even with all of these things going right, I’m still trying to figure out how this writing thing will work going forward.
Several of the sections of my blog have gone on to become recurring paid columns. Cocktail of the Hour is now a regular part of my articles for mental_floss. I was blogging about health and fitness in exchange for personal training, but the gym has since closed. In the past, I’d used blogging to keep myself accountable as a writer or for my own health, but it hasn’t stuck.
What I’d like to do is a weekly or monthly roundup post of what I did that week/month — where I fell short, what frustrated me, and any victories. I’d love for my blog to be a place where I can focus on what I’ve done rather than leaving it in my head to loop endlessly through a montage of small victories and overwhelming obstacles. I can and will do this thing, and I will do it right. I hope.
Photo credit to Mary Katherine Morris Photography
Outside of blogging personally, I maintain a laser focus on my goals. I’m pretty damn good at managing my time and resources and forming connections with interesting, diverse people. On here, though, I’ve held on to the idea that I could write whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and use this website as a personal portfolio.
Once I formulated a set editorial schedule, I started working past my mental blocks and got in a blogging routine. It didn’t evolve how I thought it would, but it evolved into my writing about topics I care about deeply and talk about often. With that in mind, I’ve put together a kind of manifesto of my intentions for this blog:
This blog is a record of my journey as a writer, runner and bartender. It will be an honest accounting of my life, even when the truth is uncomfortable. It’s my place to show kindness and love for others, to strive to be a better person and to learn everything I can that will add value to my life. It will also accurately showcase my talents as a writer — even when I’m so busy I want to get off my schedule. Lastly, it will continue to serve as a point of connection with other amazingly talented writers in the community.
As I keep saying, I can’t wait to see what other connections writing will add to my life. After two years of wonderful things, it can only get better from here.
I may work in what I consider stylish or cool fields, but my personal style tends to be anything but. Most of the pieces in my wardrobe were under $50, and most of them are several years old. I take care of my clothing as best I can, but changing shapes a few times from running has rendered even the most form-fitting dresses unflattering.
When I find shirts that fit, I buy the same one in several different colors. As a result, my outfits don’t vary much from day to day. With the craziness of bartending and writing, I haven’t had time to tailor them back into well fitted wardrobe pieces, so much of what I wear is a little baggy.
I’m also cheap. Shopping and spending money are two of my least favorite things, so I stay away from malls and shopping sites as much as possible. When considered along with my height — I’m 6’1″ — shopping becomes a nightmare. As a result, I’ve gotten creative with outfit choices.
To be perfectly frank, most of these outfits are held together by fashion-oriented apathy. Call it a bad attitude, but it’s what makes my outfits work. That, and buying clothing that fits my body type. Though it often takes days or weeks to find just a few shirts or a pair of pants, anything I buy fits well when I try it on in the store.
Other than that, I don’t buy clothes (outside of running duds. You can’t let those shoes get too old). In the near future, I’ll be replacing some of my dressy black flats that are three years old and falling apart at the seams, but otherwise you won’t find me out at the mall. Really though, I need to step up my game — and my wardrobe. Though it pains me, I should really go shopping sometime soon. Anyone up for taking on a fashion mentee?
I love writing. Building individual words into words and articles that demonstrate my knowledge and wit has been an incredibly fun way to spend my time and energy outside of bartending. However, I’ve recently become aware that some habits I’ve formed are not conducive in any way, shape or form to expanding my freelance markets. I’ve put together a list of the worst offenders to help others avoid my mistakes.
- Netflix is a fantastic substitute for cable. However, there are millions of hours’ worth of TV shows and movies available instantly. Getting sucked into a show (or three or four) is easy, but extracting yourself is not. Start watching Supernatural at your own risk.
- Complacency is easy. There’s something to be said for treating your current clients like gold — it’s absolutely necessary for a freelancer to succeed — but it’s another to stay within your boundaries because they’re comfortable. Taking action will mean facing rejection and bouncing back, but just asking could lead to possibilities you’d only imagined. After reading mental_floss as a kid, I never thought I’d actually have a column on their website, but I do. It’s more awesome than I could have imagined.
- Networking is a buzzword for a reason. Writing and freelancing do depend on your knowledge, but breaking into new markets is just as dependent on who you know as what you know. Until you reach out to your friends and acquaintances, you’ll never know what opportunities their networks can offer.
- A personal blog can be a great way to put your thoughts out there for the Internet to judge, but it can also turn into a distraction from real, paying deadlines and important personal connections. Balance is key.
- Ignoring your limits is a great way to get yourself sick, overwhelmed and unable to function at all. Taking on too much work can seem like the perfect way to set yourself apart from the crowd, but it can also backfire — hard. If you get exhausted and miss a deadline, it’ll make an editor remember you in a way that can harmfully impact your personal brand.
For a long time, I’ve been afraid to write a bucket list for blogging. I have a list of publications I want a byline in, but I’ve been subconsciously viewing my blog as a very personal project. Though its an active sample of my writing, assigning goals for its use holds me accountable and almost takes it out of my personal control.
Today, though, I’m taking the leap into commitment to my blog. I’ve started cross posting each cocktail history blog post to liquor.com and to The Southern Coterie, so in some ways it’s already gotten serious.
- Marketing. Leveraging my blog to connect with new writing markets and clients will expand the possibilities for my writing career. It should also help me to overcome my aversion to writing about myself and pitching my services.
- Traffic. I’ve recently reached out to several highly visible bloggers to guest post or regularly contribute to their work. These steps should hopefully boost my traffic and readership, which may aid in marketing.
- Monetization. Though it might not pay any of my bills, using the blog as a passive source of income could provide a few extra dollars for my savings and/or retirement. It may not seem like a lot now, but every dollar put away now is one I don’t have to worry about in 40 years.
- Connections. The connections I’ve made while blogging have been invaluable. It’s been a way to connect with other writers and like-minded individuals. Like social media, it’s a fantastic way to start conversations with those you admire. After the first connection is established and it’s natural, continuing the conversation over coffee is easy. In today’s world, that’s how some true friendships begin. I love this aspect of the web-based world and will continue to seek out and build these relationships.