While I’m on maternity leave with Baby Milo, a few dear friends have written pieces just for you all. I know you’ll enjoy them, and I hope you’ll find some new writers to follow and add to your community. Today’s post is by the stupendous Blake Atwood.
Note to self, 2014
I would never advise someone else to do what you’re about to do—especially after having only been married for two years, and particularly when you and your wife have been discussing starting a family.
Why would you leave the security of a full-time job for the insecurity of full-time freelancing as a writer and editor? Why would you subject yourself to the great unknown of earning a living from words?
Just remember to thank God for giving you such a supportive wife. Tell your wife thank you, often, for giving you that gentle but necessary nudge over the cliff and into the free-fall that is freelancing. Be grateful that she was, is, and will be your greatest cheerleader, constantly reminding you that your words aren’t half as bad as you always think they are.
Here’s a tip: take on all the work you can to build your portfolio. Starting out, you can’t be too picky.
But you will learn some hard lessons this way. Like not to work for content mills that pay hideously low rates. Or taking on work that is far outside your current experience. Or not giving enough time to a client to learn what they really want—or, better, what they actually need.
Oh, and here’s maybe the hardest lesson of all.
Remember when you thought you’d have so much time to “work on your own stuff” now that you were going to be a full-time freelance author and editor?
That’s not going to hold true. You’ll be too busy either looking for clients, talking to clients, or doing client work.
And then that thing you’ve been talking about with your wife will happen, and then you’ll really be strapped for time.
Note to self, 2015
Your life will change in ways you can’t fathom this year.
Your first child, a son who looks just like you, will be born. He will make you see the world in a new way. He will deepen the meaning of why you work.
Your job is no longer just to make your business sustainable but profitable, year after year, for him. You will work harder, but your hours will be shortened.
You will long to sleep for more than a few hours.
But then your son laughs or grins or lets one fly and you forget about how tired you are and how much work you should be doing.
You will learn hard lessons about time management, client management, and self-management because you must.
You will become more confident in what you do and choosier in the clients you take on, but you will still wonder if this thing is really going to work out in the long run.
Note to self, 2016
You continue to work, but the first year of being a parent has your mind elsewhere.
Remember when, after self-publishing your first book, you thought you’d put out a book every year?
This is the first year since 2013 when a book with your name on it won’t be published—and you’re more than OK with that.
Note to self, 2017
You will be traditionally published as a co-author, something you have long believed will change many things for you.
It won’t. At least not immediately.
You will learn the immense value of joining a writing community. You will even force yourself out of your introverted comfort zone to lead a writing group.
You will likely become over-involved in too many groups, but the dividends of making connections within the greater writing community pay off—in encouragement, in referrals, in just having new friends who happen to share the same deep joy as you when it comes to writing.
Note to self, 2024
You can barely believe you’ve made it as a full-time freelancer for a decade. Remember that you have your clients to thank for that—their words, their books, their trust.
Never take that for granted, even ten years in.
Remember that they hold dear the work they entrust to you. Just like you, they want their words to have the best possible chance to reach the widest possible audience. And now that we all have to compete against Netflix’s holographic movies and Facebook’s always-on VR world, it’s even harder to get people just to sit and read a book.
But that’s why you got into this business: because you believe in the written word, the power of an idea clearly conveyed, the joy of a story well told. That is why you keep helping authors, keep striving at vain attempts in your own writing (your novel is due to the publisher this year, by the way), and remain a freelance author, editor, and ghostwriter.
The job hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it.
Blake Atwood is an editor, author, and ghostwriter whose most recent release is The Father Effect. He hosts the All Apprentices: Quick Editing Tips podcast, instructs for Writing Workshops Dallas, and co-leads the Dallas chapter of the Nonfiction Authors Association.