Freelancing Isn’t Free

So, this thing happened yesterday: my first-ever group phone interview, for a freelance resume-writing job.

I thought that today, rather than offering a big-picture view of my quest for “a viable life of mindfulness and creativity,” rather than blogging about Sudbury or Zen or showing off my own work, I might offer you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the thrilling, glamorous world of freelance writing (at least as I am currently experiencing it).

This isn’t my first sojourn in the land of Writing For Hire: maybe five or six years ago, when I returned to regular staffing at Alpine Valley School after two years of being a desk jockey at the University of Colorado, I supplemented my part-time hours with a handful of writing jobs. While I was unable then to build it into a sustainable venture, I managed to find people to pay me to write on a wide range of topics, from SAT prep to finding and naturalizing a foreign spouse. My most regular freelancing job involved writing 150-word abstracts of technology-related newspaper and magazine articles.

The vast majority of these jobs I found through the Craigslist pages of various cities (and thus, most of my employers I never met in person, or even talked with by phone). Frankly, the process reminds me to a rather surprising degree of my days in college and grad school, doing research for the bazillion papers I had to write: each endeavor requires extensive combing through interminable listings as fast as humanly possible for a few promising nuggets. In this case, I set my filters for listings that emphasize part-time, long-distance work, customize and send off my electronic cover letter, and dash on to the next set of ads.

Speaking of analogies in this virtual job hunt, it’s interesting to experience the interview process of the long-distance freelancer. Not surprisingly, jobs are rarely won by spiffy resumes and cover letters alone. Just in the past couple weeks I’ve had to demonstrate my wordsmithing prowess in simulations, as well as take tests and go through orientation. For example, following up on yesterday’s group interview via conference call, I just completed another hour-long “onboarding” call for the same company. (Onboarding? Isn’t that prohibited by the Geneva Conventions?)

I know from my previous experience that a great deal of a freelancer’s time is unpaid, consisting of chronic searches through job listings, correspondence, evaluations, and such. Often it’s impossible to tell whether a job is suitable without investing a lot of one’s own time into checking it out. And so I wonder: Will I find the right combination of jobs to suit my situation? That is, can I cobble together enough paying work to meet my minimal expenses without detracting from my passion-based pursuits? Will I find sufficient hack writing that doesn’t make me want to hack up my semi-digested lunch?

I have no idea how, or how well, this is going to work out. I am, however, reminded of a line from a short story whose narrator was a creative writing student. “Well, I can always write about this,” she says in the middle of an unsatisfying romantic moment. So stay tuned for further updates on the hunt for viable creativity…

1 Comment

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One response to “Freelancing Isn’t Free

  1. Pingback: Squish Like Grape | Write Learning

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