Exactly like you think it would be - starry-eyed and money-less.
In the spring of 2019, I was featured on a podcast called She Explores. Host (ess?) Gale Straub asked me about running, injuries, getting back into running, falling 70 feet out of a tree, more injuries, and ... being a writer.
After that, I had several women who were on average ten years my senior send me DMs and emails about writing.
Often times, it would go something like this:
Hey Emilee - I recently listened to your She Explores podcast and wow - what an amazing story! I found it really inspiring. I'm an English teacher and have been for fifteen years. I looking for a change in life and am wondering if you could talk with me about how you went fully freelance?
I felt like a micro-celebrity while all of the five messages showed up over a span of three months. It was endearing.
I was honest in my response to all of them and only a few responded after that. Maybe it wasn't what they wanted to hear? Writing isn't an easy job.
To be a writer, you have to be two things: a recluse and also the most confident person you know.
We don't overtly try to make it look like we're the most confident person we know, but believe me - we are. And you kind of have to be.
All art is criticized.
If you can't handle the criticism with a grain of coarse sea salt, then I'm afraid this profession might not be for you. But nobody likes to receive criticism, especially the bad kind, so I started off writing blogs for companies about topics I had no clue about prior to writing the thing. Like Crepe Myrtle Trees, How to Keep The Mystery of Santa as Divorced Parents, and Video Marketing Trends.
At the time, I was a barista working at a local coffee shop. My shift started at 5:00 am and ended at 11:00 am.
After my shift, I would drink another three cups of coffee, eat a coconut muffin, and write my one blog for the day. This would take an embarrassing amount of time (up to three hours) to write one blog post that was 250 words because I had to spend so much time researching the topic beforehand.
And that was just to put it out in the universe to see if somebody wanted to buy it from me. I wrote five blogs on verblio.com (formerly known as blogmutt.com) before I finally sold one on July 6, 2017.
Let's see here... that's raking in about $2.50/hour.
But I kept going because I enjoyed it. I liked writing. I sold three more at $8, which unlocked my account to the next level. I could now write 600-word blogs and sell those for more.
On December 21, 2017, I sold my first blog for $19, which was 600 words.
It works on a point system. If you keep selling blogs, then you get more points and you can write longer blogs and get paid more. I got all excited reading reviews of writers who were making $2,000 a month just writing blogs.
I sold five more blogs at $19/blog and then a dove descended from the sky with a rolled-up piece of paper tied in gold silk and it said, "People like what you write sometimes and maybe, you could make your own rates and get paid more."
I wished the dove well, let him fly, and then stopped writing for Verblio and started writing for myself instead.
During the next two years, I did a lot of research about starting a business. It was exhilarating and terrifying. I asked myself questions like, "What is a corporation?" "Am I a sole-proprietor?" "Am I a freelance writer?" "What's a copywriter?" "How do I sell my writing?" "What are fair rates?"
I poured a ridiculous amount of time into making a website, business cards, contacting businesses and informing them about my services, and then there was the follow-through.
Follow-through has always been tough for me, even in my middle school basketball days. I would dribble up the floor, shuffling by one or two girls, and then with spaghetti-arms toss the ball towards the basket in an effort to mainly just get these mosquito-like annoying defenders off of me.
The ball wouldn't go in, most of the time, but at least I put it up there! Isn't that enough?
No. It wasn't. I'd toss the ball up there and then return to my commonplace of spacing out and pondering meaningless things like if tomatoes are fruits, after all. The coach would then yell, "Emilee! Follow-through!"
And I'd have to pull myself from my tomato garden and remember where I was.
Follow-through in business is challenging too. I would make a list of businesses to reach out to and call them one by one and just put myself out there. Again and again.
Not one business deal came out of that.
Now, in the background of all of this business spear-heading, I was also writing freelance articles and submitting them regularly. Sometimes they'd get picked up and sometimes they wouldn't.
It always started with fascination and then curiosity. If they can do it, so can I, I thought.
I researched copywriters, editors, writers, ghostwriters, hopped on a deep study of Hemingway, pondered what a soul is...
The first time I held Sun Valley Magazine in my hands, I felt something. It had a waxy thick cover and it just looked so polished. Perfect. It was perfect.
It took me a year to finally get published in their magazine and this is what I did - I walked right into their offices and introduced myself. I had emailed, called, and even found the editor on LinkedIn and no response. So, I walked right on in their front doors and introduced myself as a writer.
Playing the part is really what it takes.
Being the part. I appreciate artists, of all sorts, because it's something that continues to pop up. Sure, you can work in other professions and pursue many other obligations in life but if you are an artist, with a heart for the craft - you will always return to it.
And I hope you keep after it because it exists within you for a reason.