the secret to freelance writing

Now that I've been a freelance writer for a few years, I get the same question a couple times a week—and it is always some variation of: "How do I get started?"

Do you have any tips for new freelance writers?

How did you get your gig at XYZ?

What's the best way to get a freelance assignment? 

Can you help me figure out what to write?

How do I become a better writer, since I want to freelance?

Here's the secret: put yourself out there, and start writing.

Seriously, it's that simple. Although I have sympathy for all the writers dying to get their words in the world (and get paid for it!) I also continually raise my eyebrows at this question. There's no workaround, no short-cut, no quick way to get published. And yes, I know there are a million stories of the blogger going viral, the one-hit wonder author at age 25, the person cherry-picked from oblivion and asked to write.

That's not been my experience, though. Mostly it involves writing. Late nights. Early mornings. During naptime. Lots and LOTS of Googling and research. Reading what other people do. Looking at bylines, and editor emails, and verticals. Endless brainstorming and pitching. And plenty of no's. In fact, probably 75% no's versus yes's. Enough to make you wanna quit? Of course. But if you want to *be a writer* in some sort of published capacity, you don't.

This spring, I stepped up my freelance game, intentionally so. My goal? Publish a first-person essay in a national print magazine. I'm happy to say I checked that off my life (stay tuned for details in November!) I also simply wanted to get more articles under my belt, so I hustled big-time. I've written 50+ articles in the past 2-3 months, and I'm really proud of that work.

But as much as I'd love to announce I've found a "secret" to making it happen, I can't. Because there isn't one. You put your head down and write. You look at a blinking cursor, or a blank page, and combat the voice in your head whispering "It's all been done, you have nothing to add" in favor of the feeling in your heart beating, "No, I want to contribute my take, I can and I will."

Want to start writing? Then start writing.


Hand over heart: I love getting older, and birthdays are my jam. 

Me speaking at my sister's wedding, which is an accurate representation of hand motions inherited from my mother (photo credit)

Me speaking at my sister's wedding, which is an accurate representation of hand motions inherited from my mother (photo credit)

It doesn't matter if it is my birthday or someone else's—I just appreciate having one day to celebrate yourself or another person, and feeling the love. People who say they hate aging (especially those who moan and groan about turning 30), and don't care about birthdays? That's fine, but I am the exact opposite.

I feel like I'm in my early thirties, and I like it. A lot. It feels right. I value being in that sweet spot of wisdom and curiosity, which I hope never goes away. I know more about who I am, what I like, what doesn't work for me, and I'm less willing to cave on my opinions and gut feelings. I understand the importance of compassion and kindness a little more every year, and I am reminded how many different types of people and places and perspectives exist in the world. I've learned about heartache and betrayal and forgiveness and that oh-so-lonely experience of being in your twenties, when you just want to figure it all out but you can't seem to turn the corner. 

For me, turning 30 was that corner. So was getting married and having a baby, life events that truly changed me for the better. Much of my life is steadier than ever, and yet, I anticipate the brink of new adventures all the time. I realize I'd rather have one really excellent glass of wine than five Bud Lights. I am figuring out how to get more sleep and wake up early (work in progress). I feel at peace with my body, despite the weirdness and wonder of pregnancy and postpartum. I know that I prefer yoga over running, though a good long run can be the salve to almost any anxiety. I would rather buy a plane ticket than a pair of shoes. I'm growing SO much in my career across the board, thanks to a host of incredible mentors and a solid sense of hustle on my end.

I've eased into parenthood, and accepted that it is still HARD lots of days, as it is still a transition. I've embraced my selfish habits and given myself grace. I know how it feels to stop doing something you love, in order to do something you love more. I've learned balance isn't real. I've learned to be a better listener. I've run up against vanity (which will happen when you get a crooked tooth, ha). I've come to respect the multitude of friendships in my life, because there's no one-size-fits-all, and eventually, you need every type. I know the pain of not being able to do it all, and the joy of realizing you don't have to.

I'm grateful to see another year, and all it will bring. More writing, hopefully in the national/print category. More travel, to Santa Monica, Charleston, Raleigh, New York City, Minneapolis and Lake of the Ozarks to see friends and family. More moments of staring my gorgeous son in the face as he learns new words and takes steps to explore. More dates with my husband, whether at Target getting diapers or over a fancy sushi dinner with sake. More taking care of a home and yard that is finally ours. More hearing my mom say, "HIIII!" over FaceTime and laughing until I cry with my dad. I like growing older because it means more, more, more of the good stuff, though I don't doubt the hard times, grief and challenges will arise as well. 

In the spirit of my thirty-first, today I woke up early and went to a yoga class taught by one of my favorite teachers and friends. (And she gave me extra adjustments, which, yoga friends, YOU KNOW THAT IS THE BEST. Hallelujah.) I picked up coffee from my favorite local shop. I came home to my little family, to enjoy the flexibility of working from home on a Friday. I was able to do some writing and tackle some work projects during morning naptime, and eat avocado toast with eggs and berries. Tonight, we are having friends over to grill and blow bubbles and run around in the backyard, and you can bet I'll be having an ice cold glass or two (or as my friend Elyssa says, or ten) of Sauv Blanc like the grown-ass thirty-one-year-old I am. 

Also, I always listen to two songs on my birthday: "A Life That's Good" by Lennon & Maisy and "Past Lives" by Borns. One reminds me to not take anything for granted, and the other suggests the abundance of change that occurs in a single life.

Cheers to the weekend, friends!

{2017} april/may recap

Here's the interesting thing, to me, about any form of blogging, journaling or writing. Often times I show up to do it and think I've got nothing to say. The day was just normal, or mundane, or I don't have any "big" news. Or I don't have anything that unique to voice. 

And then a couple months go by, and I wish I had written more about the small things, because as Gretchen Rubin puts it, "The days are long but the years are short." It's already June, I hear people saying! The previous six months of this year feel like they happened in a snap, but without capturing thoughts, observations, reflections through some form of writing, it is easy for me to kind of "forget" the nuances of my life. That's why I write: to remember the days, even if for myself.

So! This whole monthly intentions thing did not fall off, at least in my brain and heart. Here's where I'm at.

As a reminder, this year, I did a values exercise that led me to these five words: honesty, passion, growth, humor and solitude. 

HONESTY: Being kind to my body.

No joke: I have thrown out my back more times in the past year than I have my entire life. Moms, you know what I'm talking about. Hoisting a 20-pound weight in literally all directions has taken a huge toll, not to mention the fact that I'm frequently holding my son on my hip. If it isn't my son, it is my overpacked purse, or groceries, or gym bag, or something else, all usually on the same side of my body.

Per yoga and a massage therapist, the solution is three-fold: work on deep core strength (the postpartum kind, even though I'm a year and a half out), be mindful about using my legs and back when carrying E, and holding items on the right side of my body for equal balance (instead of the left, which I pretty much always do because I'm right-handed and like having that arm free).

What does this have to do with kindness, you ask? Well, these three exercises feel annoying most of the time. I'm a busy working mother. When I find the time to exercise, I don't always want to go the gentle route; I want to get a good sweat session in, and push myself, and build strength. When my kid is crying to be picked up, my focus is on him, not bending from my knees. And when I'm rushing to-from the office, it feels awkward to hold my purse on my right shoulder.

BUT. Injuries, major or minor, have a way of reminding us to be kind to our bodies, because we only get one. Hurting my back repeatedly, though it is frustrating, teaches me to slow the F down. Be intentional about how I move. Take more rest days. Care for myself, because I can only care for others with a strong, healthy body, mind and spirit. 

I say all of this after tweaking my back AGAIN last night. *eye roll* So even though I had plans of getting to yoga and taking long walks most days this week, it's going to look more like nursing my movements, getting more sleep and gentle stretching. Such is life.

PASSION: Investing in friendships.

I've read a lot of articles about people who lament the loss of their friends who become parents. But I see fewer stories about new mothers and fathers who miss their friends. Cultivating friendship is beyond challenging in this stage of life, and I don't mind finding new pals. I mean finding time to literally call and text the people I've known for years and love most. I struggle with balance, and though I'm doing my best, I miss my friends. 

A harsh reality of parenthood: your kids take up more time and space and energy than anything else, as they should. This is a blessing, trust me. Family does come first; that's what my parents taught me and what I believe. But there's also a cost to other relationships, and it sucks. I went to coffee with a girlfriend I hadn't seen in MONTHS, and cried on the way there because I had rescheduled with her about ten times (all due to my own last minute issues, usually kid-related) and I was 20 minutes late. I kept thinking about how I was a terrible friend. She, of course, was gracious and lovely like always and reminded me the people in my life who really care about me will understand and find new ways to show up. They'll also be there when I come up for air from parenting. 

I'm also thinking about the times I say, "Let's get together!" to someone without meaning it. Can we stop doing this? It's a fake social custom, and I don't understand it. Why are we promising to make time without meaning it? I don't think people say this maliciously, but it always throws me off, especially when I hear it straight from the lips of someone I know is not going to make the effort to schedule anything. If you want to get together, give me a freaking date and time, ha. 

The good news! I had an impromptu girls night at my house (like, texted people two days before and said bring wine and your kids, come for five minutes or an hour, and I did not even clean before they arrived) and sooo many wonderful friends showed up, old and new. It was delightful and I plan on doing it a few times a year. 

Friends with kids, I know you understand, and I'm thankful for you. Friends without kids, thank you for showing up for me when possible, and for being there even when I forget to text you back. Friends who've moved on, I totally get it because new parent friends are challenging.

GROWTH: Writing the kind of stories I want and need to tell.

In April, I picked up a new freelance client, which has been awesome. I now have two regular clients, which keeps me at 10-15 pieces a month, plus the ongoing pitching of side articles and stories more on the personal side. All of which has got me thinking about the type of writing I want and need to do. I would not say what I'm currently writing, in terms of freelancing, always falls in that category, but the cool thing about writing is that you never know where it'll lead or what you'll learn. I've written on topics ranging from female investors to elliptical machines to leadership models to small talk to meditation. I really like the creative variety, most of the time, and the extra paycheck has been sweet for decimating some debt and adding to our travel and house project funds.

Yet. If I'm not careful, this is also the type of work that could continually distract me from writing bigger and better pieces. My hope is that it guides me in this direction instead, but I know myself: I am good at being busy. Hell, I work full-time in addition to freelancing. It will forever be hard to find time to write, and if I fill up those pockets with listicles and "X ways to ABC" (which can be fun to write, don't get me wrong), I may never, you know, finish my book proposal. 

At this junction, I don't know if I'll ever be the type to go full-time freelance and try to make a living with writing. I like the structure of a 9-5, particularly the one I have right now. And I like that having a full-time job means I can be picky about what I write, when and for who. But finding the balance of picking up gigs because I can versus pushing for what I want is tricky.

One last thought about freelancing: PITCHING IS SO EXHAUSTING GAHHHH. I admire those of you who do it 24/7. #hustlers

HUMOR: Laughing more at work.

Between a major speech deadline for our CEO, a massive leadership event and a big move for our whole team to a new office, I spent the past two months in werk-werk-werk mode. It all went very well; however, I'm ready to have a little more fun at work versus constant process/execution mode. Harder than it sounds, particularly when you're managing a small team. (Somebody always has to be the "boss," right?) I'm hoping summer ushers in productivity and lightheartedness.

SOLITUDE: Waking up earlier.

My husband has a love/hate relationship with my alarm system . . . because I set my alarm for 5 a.m. almost every day and right now my record is maaaaaybe 1/5 per week? I completely understand his annoyance. Waking up early is so hard for me. It is also the most optimal quiet time. We've set a joint intention to do 5 a.m. reading/writing mornings a few times a week, so we'll see how that goes. (It happened today, and so did this blog post, so yay!) If you've got great waking up early tips, especially as a parent, lemme know!