I was working for a handloom and yarn manufacturer, weaving, and writing promotional materials. I also did volunteer editorial work for a non-profit historic preservation group. One day I was under deadline, editing (heavily) a manuscript that a historian had been paid $40 an hour to write. The thought hit me — I was pushing the wrong pencil.
Within a month, I sold my loom and rented an office. I printed a business brochure for writing and editing services. My primary work for the first three months was marketing myself. I contacted newspapers, magazines, book publishers, other editors, and advertising agencies in my area.
I proposed book reviews for a local paper and they agreed to a monthly column. A business newspaper asked for restaurant reviews and occasional features. A magazine took me on for proofreading, which led to editorial and feature work. A promotional calendar on bed and breakfasts, undertaken as a job-for-hire for a computer firm, led to an article published in Early American Life. About the same time, I spent ten minutes and wrote 50 words on the “Five Advantages of Being Single” for a magazine contest. (I was married.) New Woman published it for $1000.
Within the first year, two difficult decisions were required: Yankee Magazine offered me an in-house staff position, but I wanted the flexibility of a freelance job. We worked out a priority scheduling for the work and I kept my freelance status. An advertising agency, doing promotional work for colleges, offered me a staff position. I turned them down.
Since going freelance, I have consistently made more money than in my staff days, plus I have increasingly replaced less interesting work (advertising, for me) with reviews, features, essays and syndicated columns, plus a book project (Traditional Home Remedies, published by Time-Life). After one year in business, I rewarded myself with an office bash that included a jazz trio and champagne for friends and clients. And guess what? It netted me more business.
Martha White has been a full-time freelance writer and editor since 1987 and has published with The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Country Journal, Early American Life, Family Circle, Garden Design, Hope Magazine, Maine Boats & Harbors, Yankee and many other national publications.