Re-directing my career away from a nonprofit executive to a freelance writer is built on a messy mix of faith, ambition, and ignorance. Having started about nine months ago, I am now in the phase of trusting in the long process and hard work necessary for being a freelance writer.
New and scary things, as expected, are knocking at my door.
Inspired by ceremonies I watched during the Chinese New Year Festival in Vancouver’s Chinatown, I offer my personal version of the tradition “cai quing”, meaning “plucking of the greens.” In the custom, businesses hang green vegetables outside their storefronts to be “eaten” by wandering troupes performing the lion dance in colorful lion costumes. Red envelopes holding money are tied to the bunch along with fruit. Happiness and good fortune in the new year are granted to the businesses when the lions decide to “pluck” the greens and envelope down after an acrobatic and lively dance.
Every day, I open my front door, stand on a chair, and hang my bright green lettuce (who am I kidding? it would be dark green organic kale) above the entry. The loud and impatient Freelance Writing Lion arrives, sniffing the following leaves of effort to decide if they are worthy enough to grant me one more day:
- Time: I spend approximately three to four hours each day writing. My daily schedule includes 15 minutes of personal journaling, one hour of drafting and editing posts for my blog, and the remaining time on any freelance writing projects. If not, I use the time for personal writing practice. I end the day with a quick journal entry about my day’s accomplishments and misses.
- Entrepreneurship: I am transferring to my own career those skills developed from building and leading a scrappy nonprofit organization, securing funds and resources, and constantly selling another organization’s promise. Understanding that I am starting my own small business is incredibly helpful in organizing my priorities, time, energy, and budgets.
- Engagement: My writing has no external value until it engages others. I can write hours and hours, but if no one reads, comments, or shares my products, I cannot expect to generate one client or paycheck. This is a big leaf since it also includes connecting with clients, readers, peers, and thought leaders to find out what interests them.
- Reading: Right now, the leaves of reading are similar to random arugula in this bunch. The more I write, the less I read. I skim Twitter, scan blogs, scroll Instagram captions, and look at Facebook and LinkedIn posts, but I don’t read. When I do, my mind asks: Why I am not working on my freelance business? Who do you think you are? What am I doing to generate a client?
- Improvement: My writing skills are good, not great. There is so much more improvement needed for my grammar, spelling, style, voice, and vocabulary, and every day, I spend time bettering my writing skills to be more competitive in this global marketplace.
- Marketing: Though I daily research opportunities, this is the wiltiest leaf in the bunch. I rationally accept the necessity of broadcasting my freelance writing services, but I am too cautious in seeking clients and gigs. If my kale bunch is to not become my only meal for the day, I must market my services more intentionally and confidently.
Getting this chance to re-direct my career to my passions of writing, travel, and triathlons is incredible, and I hope that my efforts bundled together with a band of gratitude will satisfy the Freelance Writing Lion.
If so, I trust that my business will be so successful that I can add a little red envelope filled with discretionary cash to the kale bunch.
Until then, I wonder if the Lion takes Visa?