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A Word of Encouragement For Freelance Writers With A Full Time Job

flowers for writersA guest post by  Elise Seyfried.

I stumble through life, for the most part. Grace and style are not my style. When it comes to marketing myself, I tend to send out email queries, and then cringe for days about the boneheaded blunders I must have made in print. I never saw a piece published until I was 48. I guess you could call me a late bloomer?

I have a full-time job as Director of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran  Church, which uses all of my most productive hours of the day. When at last, after dishes are done, I curl up with my laptop on the sofa, the end result of my literary output is the chain of zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz I inadvertently type after I’ve fallen asleep at the keyboard.

So how do you successfully freelance when you’re working at something else 40++ hours a week, and don’t have the organizational skills and endurance of a John Grisham (who,  it is rumored, wrote his first few books longhand before his day as a lawyer began)?

If you’re like me, you stumble into it. I sold my first piece to a well-known, conservative Christian magazine, and my second to a really out-there liberal Christian webzine. The next few years, during which time I wrote my first book of humorous spiritual essays, I wrote an op-ed piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer and a piece about our pet rabbit for Metropolis. I became a regular contributor to a small local paper. And suddenly, one day, it dawned on me: I was a freelancer!

Experts on the subject of writers extol the virtues of the sacred writing space, the mind-cleansing walk in the woods, the restorative cup of tea, the ever-ready notebook filled with jotted-down ideas. My sacred space needs to be cleared nightly for plates of pasta or meatloaf. I semi-cleanse my mind with brisk 30 second treaks from car to house. My restorative cup of tea takes the form of, depending on time of day, high-octane coffee or mellow glass of Malbec. My ever-ready notebook is never-ready. When I come up with an idea, it is usually jotted on our electric bill, or on the kitchen whiteboard, where one of the kids promptly erases it to write “buy peanut butter!” My tale of an incandescent jar of peanut butter has yet to be put to paper.

Could I be more productive if I stopped stumbling through? No doubt. But listen: I have raised five children while working fulltime. I have done, and am doing, my best. My second book has just been published. I’m writing devotionals for a Lutheran press. And I’m here to tell you: you can do it. Whoever you are. Don’t waste time beating yourself up for not landing a feature in The Atlantic. That little local paper is just fine for now. Your writing space and exercise routine and diet and journal may be a little quirky, but they are you.

So wake up tomorrow and vow to be kind to yourself. Send that query without cringing. Pitch that op-ed to the paper with confidence. And, at the end of the day, be glad if you produced any usable prose whatsoever. Some days you will soar. Other days you will plummet to the ground. But keep on keeping on, and one of these days you, too, will be a successful freelancer.

How do you encourage yourself?

Elise Seyfried of Oreland, PA is an author, freelance writer, essayist, actress, poet, playwright, lyricist, church worker and mom of five. She writes a regular column for The Chestnut Hill Local. Her work has also appeared in such diverse places as The Philadelphia Inquirer, Metropolis, The Lutheran Digest, Guideposts Magazine, Simul: Lutheran Voices in Poetry, and the Wittenburg Door. Elise is the author of the book Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life, was lyricist for the Stanley Drama award-winning musical Flight and has co-written (with her husband Steve) 15 plays for children. She has completed her second book, Underway: Reflections on Everyday Grace, which is scheduled for a December publication.

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Now a days many of writers is doing freelancer work at i guess that is a good option to increase your monthly income and you can save more.
    essay writer recently posted..awriter: Hello look at site http://www.a-writer.com/ What you say about it.My Profile

  • Gah! I’m still working on it. My New Year’s resolution is to get three more jobs and finish my current novel. I have to aim low right now, but that doesn’t mean the resolution can’t be amended later in the year. 🙂
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Favorite Movies to Watch at ChristmasMy Profile

  • Thanks so much for the nice comments, everyone. I really wish you all good luck with your freelancing! Anne, thanks so much for the opportunity to post. Happy Holidays!

  • Daniel

    Love the post. No magic bullet, just got to put in the effort no matter what. It’s hard some days coming home and just wanting to do nothing but eat and sit in front of the television. But, remembering that each step is like a step on a ladder keeps me motivated.
    Daniel recently posted..Utopia Systems Hosted CRMMy Profile

  • Steve

    You have highlighted a very important point here. But as I read your post, a thought crossed my mind. When we are working full time and also as a freelancer is it possible to give the best while juggling different tasks to meet the deadlines? I feel if we want to grow and develop our skills we must take limited tasks as a freelancer.
    Steve recently posted..Look For Funny Stress Quotes to Fight Back Against StressMy Profile

    • Quality is always the goal isn’t it Steve? And sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t. Always growing one hopes.

      • Steve

        You are right Annew. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we do not. I lost one article writing project last week and my appointment was based on a sample work. They told me that they were not happy with the quality. I really wonder at their sense of judgement as the trial 6 articles got approved and suddenly after another six articles they thought my writing skills were poor. But, then I think what you told sometimes we get it and sometimes we cannot hit the mark! The thing is to move on and grow. Thanks Annew!
        Steve recently posted..Know How to Fall Asleep FastMy Profile

        • You’re welcome… Elise Seyfried deserves the credit as the guest poster of that article.

  • It’s nice to read blogs from people like you Elise. Thanks for the reality check. I held a fulltime job up till May this year before I decided to start writing procedure manuals for retail companies. Well like you said, sending out query letters always gives me that odd feeling that I blundered with it somewhere. All the more when I don’t receive any replies of any kind for them. Life becomes very discouraging and stressful when your plans go awry. But I plod on regardless because I made the decision to write for clients. It’s not the writing that holds me back but the lack of response from my target market. I won’t claim to be a great writer but do write better than most especially for the type of composition that I do anyway. I just hope something would give before the year is through. Thanks again for your post. It helped lift my spirits.
    Joseph Praba recently posted..SurveyMy Profile

    • Plodding on is part of the secret , Joseph… and you might try some phone calls following up on those emails.

  • Great story. I had another freelance business at the time, and after winning a couple of essay contests and starting to freelance for the L.A. Times through one of those connections, I had the same sort of dawning realization — hey, I think I’m a freelance writer! Maybe there’s something to this freelance writing thing…and then I started to dig in and learn more about it.
    Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing recently posted..6 Things You’re Flubbing in Your Marketing EmailsMy Profile

    • Nice Carol. I actually knew I was a freelance writer from about 6th grade on… but it took me quite awhile to figure out how to earn a living at it.

  • Great post! I too have a full time job and try to cram my freelancing in between weeknight dinners and bedtime, weekends of laundry, scrubbing bathrooms, and walking the dog. Slowly but surely, I’m getting better gigs (but I still joyfully write about food drives, Halloween haunted houses and teachers of the year for my local daily newspaper). Thanks for the encouraging words – if someone as busy as you can do it, maybe I can too!

    • Jan, hang in there. I too had to work my way out of a full-time job to freelancing… and it’s been well worth it.

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