So there I was, unemployed. Like so many other writers, I knew the day would come when I would need to quit my job and dedicate my time to writing. I just never imagined that the dream of giving up the day job would come in the form of a lay-off and no contingency plan. I needed freelance writing clients and I needed them quickly; a roof over my children’s heads depended on it.
Like most aspiring writers, and ordinary people for that matter, I turned to the Internet for my answers. It was there, among the scores of search engine results and miscellaneous–mostly irrelevant blog posts–that I found Elance. Initially, I was skeptical. Could it really be true? Is there really a place where I can join for free and bid on great, high-paying jobs? This dream was reality; the answer to my prayers.
My first month on Elance was pretty good. I made a few hundred dollars and was pretty excited about it. But after the initial euphoria of making money as a writer died off, I was left with the harsh reality that my rent wasn’t going to get paid. Thanks to government assistance we could buy food, but without a house, how would I cook it? Unable to accept an existence where my diet consisted of straight-from-the-can-spam and tuna sandwiches, I decided to look for a full-time writing position.
I was ecstatic to see how many of these there were on Elance. It seemed as though every page of search results had at least one listing for a full-time writer. It wasn’t until I started applying for some of these jobs that I realized the horrible truth of Elance, and freelance writing in general. Job after job was listed at four dollars an hour. Or one dollar for every one hundred words with a maximum of four thousand words a day. That’s only forty bucks! Are you kidding me? You want me to research, write, edit, rewrite, and post eight articles a day for just forty bucks? And to make this situation even more ludicrous, there were forty and fifty people trying to get this job! I had never seen anything so crazy in all of my life.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t support my wife and two children of forty dollars a day. I needed more; but Elance couldn’t deliver. I had to take matters into my own hands.
Elance changed my life.
But not in the way I thought that it would. It changed my life by showing me that I couldn’t count on anyone or anything to bring me success. My destiny lay squarely on my shoulders. I could either rise to the occasion, or huddle up in the fetal position under my bed and eventually die of embarrassment.
Needless to say, I rose to the occasion. Knowing that I couldn’t bid on jobs forced me to get serious about my craft. I began to study the different styles of writing and developed a passion for writing as a marketing tool. I began to write…religiously…all the time…non-stop. I practiced until my fingers cramped. I began to uncover the power of blogging and disciplining myself to stay on a consistent blogging schedule. I learned how to market to businesses and sell myself as a writer for a wage that I was worth, not just want any cheap skate wanted to pay me. I learned how to treat my writing like a business, not a hobby. In short, I learned how to be a freelance writer.
The ‘free’ in freelance can stand for one of two things. First, it can mean that you are free from schedules and the tyrannical rantings of a crazy boss. It can mean that you can work when and where you want. It can mean that you are free from the bondage of 9-5.
But true freelance writing is all of those things, plus, freedom to be myself. Freedom to be myself means that I decide who I will write for. I will decide what I will write. I will decide what to charge for it.
Thanks to Elance, I am now a true freelance writer. Although it did very little to advance my career, it showed me exactly what I do not want to be: chained down by sweat-shop content farms and unappreciative clients. Instead, it helped me to see another way to freelance writing success. The way that is only controlled by me and my hard work. Thank you Elance. Thank you.