Tag Archives: snark

The Truth About Thriving Freelance Careers

Joe Wallace Turntabling Rare RecordsI read something on a known freelance blog today that should be filed under the “you know better” department. “It’s always nice to hear a good success story…(name deleted is) a UK-based freelance journalist (who) successfully made a career out of freelance writing with no previous experience or training. (Name deleted) is proof that as long as you can write well, you can start a thriving writing career at any time.”

Not really.

Experienced folks know better than this, and it always irritates me a bit to see such platitudes handed out disguised as encouragement. If the writer had said, “(Name deleted) is proof that as long as you can write well, know where to pitch your ideas, and how to market yourself in an overcrowded field, you can start a thriving writing career at any time.”

Writing well isn’t really what the freelance game is all about.

To be sure, knowing your trade as a freelancer–ANY freelancer–is important. But the marketing, the networking, the cultivation of sympatico pros is crucial to that thriving career. How many books did Stephen King write before he landed his first major success with a publisher?

I believe the magic number was FIVE. And the one that made it was fished out of the trash can by his wife, who basically saved the novel Carrie from oblivion.

Maybe not the best, or even relevant example. But it goes to show you that writing well isn’t really the key to success. It is an important part of the equation, but it’s not what lands you the paychecks. Take inspiration from the success stories, but ask yourself how those people got where they are today. In the blog post I read, the writer took a leave of absence from her unrelated career, started building her networks and portfolio, and landed some paying gigs before returning to work two months later.

The writer lived a spartan existence, saved a nest-egg and worked at her old gig until she felt safe enough in her new freelance career to ditch the day job. She also performed that time-honored freelancer magic of taking on so much freelance work she no longer had time for her day job.

How do you apply these things in your own situation? The trick is to learn how to use your current resources and network in the same way, even if you don’t think your current contacts are freelancer-friendly.

You never know. It takes a bit of creative thinking and some determination, but your existing network might be the key to getting that thriving freelance career up and running. Your writing will come along over time–even if you fancy yourself a good writer (or whatever skill you’re honing) already. Finding one gig isn’t too difficult. Finding enough work to sustain you over the transition from employee to self-employed is another thing. You have to cultivate relationships, build your portfolio, and create a living wage from scratch.

How to begin all this? Look at your current network. There’s the key to your freelance success.

To be fair, the bulk of the blog post I criticized in my intro here isn’t about blowing sunshine up your kilt with false hopes. The beginning, which sent me into this rant in the first place, is misleading and poorly chosen, because the bulk of the writing truly does touch on the principles I mention here. But some will read that opening statement and run with it–and that I’d like to avoid. Aspiring freelancers should know what they’re getting into. Being realistic doesn’t equal discouragement from trying…but it IS important to keep it real.

Joe Wallace is easily annoyed by advice blogs, always amused by defensive replies to his snark, and fancies himself a better writer than he really is. He also collects and blogs about vinyl at www.Turntabling.net.

Top 10 Reasons to Go Full-Time Freelance This Week

space age bachelor pad

by Joe Wallace

You know you want to, and everywhere you look there are websites encouraging you to take the plunge and go full-time freelance. Wanna know why I do it? It’s not for the huge paychecks or the accolades, but that DOES help. Instead, here are my top ten reasons why you should drop everything you’re currently doing and go full-time freelance THIS WEEK.

10. You can go from a thankless 60 hour work week to a life of ease and fun. Don’t set the alarm clock, wake up when you  feel like it and go to work in your pajamas. But if you do this, make sure the curtains are open so your neighbors can watch you taking it easy. Nothing screams “successful freelancer” than when your next-door buddies come home from a hard day slaving away in the land of the cubicles to see you still in your PJs laughing at some e-mail your favorite editor just sent you.

9. There’s no shortage of work, when you feel like actually writing something. Don’t worry about that 3PM tee time at the golf course, you can bang out that first draft and submit it after your two-hour lunch. The editor’s going to re-write you anyway, why polish?

8. It’s about time you purchased a brand new car, isn’t it? When was the last time you could afford to do THAT? Oh, and don’t forget to pay in cash with the money you made off putting Google Adsense on your resume page.

7. You’ll score big with members of both sexes, and cats will purr at the very sight of you.  To make this happens, it’s especially important to cultivate an image of carefree living, even when the last check you were due is 90 days late. Never let them see you sweat, and tell your landlord to go take a flyer—you’ll pay when you’re damn good and ready.

6. Two words. Pizza Buffet. Now you can do it anytime you want, including for breakfast. Since you’ll be waking up around 11:30 or later now, that’s more of a possibility than ever before. Continue reading Top 10 Reasons to Go Full-Time Freelance This Week

Freelance Writers: Please Stop Flirting With Me

kissI’m clearly having a Dave Barry moment, so please be patient.

Lately the deluge of offers of naughtiness are coming at me non-stop. Already twice today at the time of this writing, I’ve had freelance writers let me know they think I’m hot stuff.

Now they’re too professional to come right out and say it in an e-mail. No, these temptations come to me by way of thinly veiled messages. To the casual readers they look like simple writing goofs, but I know better.

See, I know how to read between the lines. And I can JUST TELL these freelancers are trying to tell me something. Something steamy. Like maybe they want me to scoop out one of my spare millions and take them on a world cruise, sipping alcoholic drinks out of coconut shells and savoring the pleasures of the flesh.

I know what you’re thinking right about now, but trust me. This is REAL. They all use the same code, and it’s flattering really…but I just don’t know how I can afford to take ALL these people on a steamy cruise, let alone spend the proper amount of time with them all. So what’s the hidden message in all of this material they send me?

They all write, “Please bare with me.” Some say it in the articles they send, others say it in their cover letters or e-mails about this and that. Some of them also mention that a sign proudly “bares” a logo, or that they “bare in mind” which also sounds to me just a bit dirty. I know dirty thoughts when I read them, oh yes indeedy.

But I just can’t bare with you. For starters, I’m taken. What’s more, I can’t afford all the cruise ship time. I’m flattered, really, but it won’t work out between us no matter how many times I bare with you.

Please don’t be hurt or upset, but unless you want me to “bear with you” instead, I’m afraid it’s just not on, as the kids would say. I just can’t respond to your pleas for nakedness.

I’m sure you understand.

Top Ten Perils of Freelancing and Working From Home


In the dead of Chicago’s punishing winters, I am reminded of the many occupational hazards of being a freelancer. In no particular order:

10. Yolander Prinzel nailed it with her post about the freelance life, As A Freelance Writer, I Notice My Ass Often Hurts. Too true!

9. If you write for too long while stretched out on the couch, you can forget where you are, stand up too quickly and entangle your feet on the laptop’s power cable. If you have children nearby, they will learn new vocabulary. That’s one reason why I’ll never have kids. The self-censor feature is absent from my brain.

8. Scotch just doesn’t taste as good at 9AM as it does at 6PM.

7. Everybody calls you at 11AM to ask “What are you doing?”. Well, gee. What are YOU doing? I’m earning a living over here. Continue reading Top Ten Perils of Freelancing and Working From Home

Line By Line: How To Edit Your Own Writing

line-by-line-how-to-edit-your-own-writingTransparency alert: I have NOT read this book. But the title says it all. Line By Line: How To Edit Your Own Writing is the sort of book I wish every writer who works for me would purchase.

There’s nothing worse than having to edit pointless mistakes a writer should be catching before they click “send”. When I sit in the editor’s chair, it gives me actual physical pain to see yet another abused apostrophe or the word “advise” instead of “advice”. Suppressing the urge to kill is the least of an editor’s problems. The desire to play drinking games with those article submissions and blog posts is overwhelming.

Spot the wrongly used “there,” “their” or “they’re” and take a drink. See the contraction of “there is” followed by a plural? Take TWO drinks.

All those dead brain cells could be avoided if all writers would buy books like these and start SELF-EDITING! Please, for the love of all that is nice and true, do this one favor for us overworked editors.

Thank you.

Stupid Words and Phrases You Should Never Use

freelance-writing-advice-3Drew Kerr’s article, Three Words Every PR Pro Should Ban at Ragan.com got my wheels turning. I didn’t even need to read the whole thing to know there was a screed coming.

There are words that add color to your writing, there are words you can’t live without, and there are words that violate the cardinal rule of good writing. In the Gospel According to Strunk and White, the all-time number one commandment is this:

“Omit needless words.”

So why do writers INSIST on using “additionally” or “furthermore” in their work? Why in the name of the great gods of the IBM Selectric do people bother writing “The sale is going to be held on Saturday” when “The sale begins Saturday” will do quite nicely, thank you?

Drew Kerr advises PR-heads to stop using the word “thrilled” in their press releases. I have to agree, as it seems to imply some kind of twisted sexual gratification–when you’re talking about breaking ground for a new condo or electing a new president for the Elk’s Club, that just doesn’t sound right. Ditto for Kerr’s other advice, which is to stop using the word “excited” in the same context.

Continue reading Stupid Words and Phrases You Should Never Use