Growing up as a first-generation immigrant, I felt an enormous amount of pressure to go into a more traditional career. The first years out of college, I really tried to fit into this mold. My first adult job was working at a human resources department for a large company and then I worked at a non-profit, but I was always writing and illustrating on the side. Eventually, I went to a class that was led by the owner of a local weekly newspaper, Donna Ladd. That’s when I started realizing that maybe I could be a writer for a living, despite the naysayers.
I took a class on how to pitch, and then continued with a creative nonfiction course. This motivated me to keep up with blogs, online magazines, and other sources I respect. I made of list of places that accept submissions, or have their contact information online. From there, I’d email pitches, and wait for answers. Fellow freelance writers also recommended job sites I could peruse to get clients. This meant getting up early in the morning, looking through opportunities, and applying to the ones for which I felt qualified.
I sensed that there were few Latinas who blogged that got exposure and, thankfully, I found a place to write at Skirt Collective. The website is now defunct and, though I wasn’t a part of their staff, I’d contribute often. Best of all, they were a women’s website that focused on various niches. My experiences there taught me how to keep up with news and trending topics.
However, I still wasn’t freelancing full-time. The next step in my journey was creating a budget that paid for my basic necessities, and planning ways to slowly increase my income. After deciding which things were negotiable (eating out, expensive brands, and other non-essentials), I tried to live within a modest budget while I still had work. Pretty soon, I was only working part-time and, after about a year and a half, I was able to quit working for others. I’ve been freelancing full time for almost three years now.
There are still some ups and downs. Sometimes work is low, companies restructure, and clients disappear even if you’ve done everything right. When work is slow, I usually talk to friends and some of them are able to suggest places that are looking for writers. I also look through freelance job boards, and have always been able to get back on my feet. However, there are times when clients don’t bother to pay. It’s not the best scenario but it comes with the territory so I always try to spend less than my budget just in case.
My biggest advice for budding freelance writers is to go into this treating it like a normal job. Give yourself a schedule, find places you’d like to write for, and keep up with deadlines. When you can’t keep a deadline, communicate so you won’t burn bridges. And, always make a budget!
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Ingrid Cruz is a freelance writer and screenwriter/director. She enjoys traveling and coffee. You can check out more of her work at www.ingridiswriting.com.