Two years ago, I quit my full-time job as a marketing professional to follow my dream and become a freelance writer. Eager to escape the gray cubicle walls that confined me, I conjured images of myself lounging on the sofa in my pajamas, my laptop resting on my knees as I methodically tapped out story after story. I enjoyed my new wardrobe – happy to have ditched the high-heels and pencil skirts – and relished the freedom to make my own schedule, but was shocked to find that I missed the office. Well, not the office exactly, but the daily jaunts to the coffee shop downstairs, chatting with co-workers in the office kitchen and team meetings that I’d previously found tedious and futile that now seemed welcome distractions to the loneliness I faced in my new life as a writer.
I was quickly becoming a hermit – trapped in a solitary world, chatting over email with editors and occasionally Skyping with interviewees. I ached to get out of the house, but worried that hours spent away from my desk would be a speed bump in the road to cash flow. I had to come up with a strategy – a way to pry my hands away from the keyboard while simultaneously improving my bottom line. Here’s how I did it:
1 – Attend Courses and Writing Conferences
I budgeted 30% of my freelance income to attend courses. While most of my classmates were unpublished writers eager to break into the business, I wasn’t taking the class to learn how to write a query letter or structure an article. I attended to feel stimulated. There’s something about sitting in a plastic chair, surrounded by fellow writers, that gets the mental wheels in my brain turning. And, turn they did. My class notebooks became full of ideas that came to me simply by attending class.
Course assignments forced me to hone in on ideas and put pen to paper, resulting in query letters being sent out. Over the two month course period, I earned enough in assignments to cover the cost of all three freelance writing courses I’ve taken this year.
Attending a conference is another way to get the mental wheels turning, and is a great way to meet fellow writers and editors. Conferences deliver a wealth of practical information on how to improve your business, discover different markets and even provide opportunities to sell a piece to an editor – one who is likely more relaxed after a night in a plush hotel and a couple martinis, and more receptive to hearing your pitch than he/she would be on a typical Wednesday afternoon sitting at their desk answering a bunch of emails.
2 – Attend Trade Shows
Trade shows are like candy stores for writers. I recently attended a healthy living trade show that provided me with a gift bag filled with dozens of new products to pitch to beauty publications and a wealth of new contacts in the industry. The event was not only lucrative to my writing business, it was also cathartic – allowing me to step away from my computer and be pampered by beauty reps. This is the reason we become writers, right? To have the flexibility in our schedules to enjoy ourselves. So why do we often feel chained to the desk, or the couch, when the real world is where the best stories are?
3 – Set up Shop in Cafes and Shared Office Spaces
Bringing my work to the local cafe not only provided me with the caffeine boost I needed to get through a difficult assignment, it forced me to focus. After all, at a table for one, there’s nothing else to do but work on what’s in front of you. Coffee shops are also great eavesdropping venues. The conversations that take place around you can often stimulate article ideas. Case in point: listening to a few fellow patrons grumble about the cold Canadian weather inspired an article on how to survive Canadian winters – and I sold the article!
Co-working spaces are a great option for writers who simply can’t deal with the distractions of home. Setting up a co-working space can also be a nice side business if you are renting out desk space to other freelancers.
4 – Take Yoga Classes or Join a Gym or an Organized Sports Team
There’s no shortage of studies asserting that physical exercise improves productivity, concentration, mental alertness and happiness. It even inspires article ideas. A 75-year-old woman at my yoga studio inspired an article on yoga for seniors, and watching dog owners play catch with their puppies in the park inspired an article on how to work out with your dog.
The bottom line? The best ideas are often generated from the people around you. So, get out, have fun and improve your business at the same time.
Lisa Evans is a freelance writer who splits her time between Toronto, Canada and Chiapas, Mexico. Visit her website http://lisa-m-evans.weebly.com.