If you’re reading this article, you are a freelance writer who had the chops to make it through the recession and still be doing this work. So how do we now go from ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’?
I am a single parent freelance writer who has survived a number of economic ups and downs over 30 years. The external pressures of the recession were brutal. So too were internal pressures. In the state of Florida, child support ends at 18. I have two sons in college. When they are not at college and back at home, I provide for their basic needs of shelter and food (although they’re both employed year-round and provide for their own wants).
My sons were the driving factor that fueled me to get up every morning during the recession, wave my fist at the situation, and proclaim it was not going to claim me as a casualty. I took comfort in the fact that, while I may have lost a client or two in the recession, it would not be like losing a full-time office job as was the fate of so many of my colleagues in the newspaper industry (from where I started).
Like the many company presidents I interviewed for trade journals, I was cutting expenses to get by. I took a pay cut from my biggest client, but did so knowing the staff editors were doing so as well. We made it to the other side. I was rewarded with the exclusive assignment of a regular new feature that then boosted my income.
I did not, however, give in to taking those many work ‘opportunities’ to write large stories for $10 or the thrill of a byline. That kind of money does not pay the bills and it devalues my work, as well as the work of all professional writers.
The biggest strategy, however, came in recognizing in whatever circumstance arises ñ such as a recession, a major weather event or another significant situation ñ one person’s challenge is another person’s opportunity.
For instance, people weren’t buying new homes, so companies weren’t building them. Realtors weren’t selling them. Travel became ‘stay-cations’ in one’s backyard or community.
However, people doing renovations inside and outside homes were seeing their business pick up. I focused my efforts on pitching stories that would help the readers of those trade journals succeed with these new opportunities.
That leads to the biggest lesson the recession taught all of us: follow the trends. Proactively pitch stories to editors that tie in to today’s trends. They want their readers to thrive. When you pitch stories about topics that are fresh, and teach the readers something new, despite the current economy, you’ll thrive as a freelance writer, too.
Carol Brzozowski is a freelance journalist living in south Florida.