It sounds strange, perhaps, to write this considering just how long that I’ve been doing what I do for a living, but it’s only really in the last month or so that I’ve felt like “a freelance writer,” whatever that actually means.
I mean, sure; I’ve technically, legally, been one for… what, a decade or so, by this point? Maybe a little over. Before that, I was technically an employed writer, being fulltime staff for io9 when it launched for a couple years, and before that, I was a part-time freelancer who wasn’t really getting paid for it, but that’s okay, I also had a day job that paid the bills. I’ve been writing online for more than 20 years, but I wouldn’t really call myself “a freelance writer” until after I’d moved to Portland.
Nonetheless, that was more than a decade ago. But in all that time, it felt more that I was a writer who had a home base or two — Time, say, or Wired, or more recently, The Hollywood Reporter — and occasionally ventured out into other areas to see what was out there. More often than not, I was a “permalancer,” as the term goes, someone who had a guaranteed monthly salary to rely on, and then other things would go on top.
Not so now, of course; now, I’m scrambling and juggling different gigs and deadlines to make sure that I have something coming in to help with rent and bills. (Not enough, of course, but give it time; also, online writing in general just doesn’t pay quite so well anymore, alas.) It’s a skillset that I feel like I’m learning as I go, but there’s something thrilling about that — the thrill of the chase, perhaps.
Part of the learning cycle is, of course, finding out when you’re stepping on your own toes, as I did earlier today, pitching something that I thought was a winner to an outlet I was currently working on a story for. I was right, but only kind of: the new story got picked up, in the process putting the story I was already working on — indeed, the story I’d spent the entire morning working on — on hold, if not killing it outright. The new story, meanwhile, has the same deadline as the old one, meaning I’ll have to work doubly hard to hit it. So… huzzah…?
Freelance writing, it seems, may just be one big series of monkey’s paws, waiting for the wish to be made and the twist to arrive. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you.