Selling Soap? By Liz Swain

A pyramid-scheme pitch propelled me into freelance writing. I graduated with a journalism degree, but the economy was so bleak that I worked at the unemployment office. When my supervisor invited me to her home, I thought we’d talk about the fact that legislators hadn’t signed the budget and we could be working without pay.

I discovered that she and her husband wanted to recruit me to sell soap and other products that “practically sell themselves.” The couple said they hated their jobs and planned to retire young. They asked about my dreams and created a chart to show how much leisure time I wasted. They were right! Although I didn’t picture myself hawking soap, I could find time for writing.

I subscribed to Writer’s Digest, bought Writer’s Market and enrolled in a college course in freelancing. I discovered that I was surrounded by sellable story ideas. A hot steering wheel led to “The Practical Driving Test” that appeared in Mad magazine. Co-workers inspired my article about “homegrown” food. A newspaper bought my feature about a woman who got eggs from her chicken and a couple who raised pigs for pork. Answering nature’s call yielded my story about the 38-pound cat living in the loo in Paddington Station.

My freelance successes continued. Then the economy improved, and my unemployment job ended. Newspapers were hiring, and I had clips to show editors. I worked at community newspapers for nine years. I love writing and freelanced, too.

After newspapers merged and closed in my area, I decided to try freelancing full-time. That was 11 years ago. Before taking the plunge, I talked to other full-time freelancers. One advised taking a part-time job so I’d have a steady paycheck. Currently, I teach several adult education classes. I have a monthly query goal, with the amount based on how many writing assignments I have due. Reading helps me meet that goal with leads to new assignments and markets for my growing list of story ideas.

I saw my former supervisor several years ago, working in office management. I guess the pyramid scheme was a wash for both of us.

Liz Swain is a San Diego freelance writer/editor. She researches and writes articles for publications and websites. Her writing credits include San Diego Metropolitan’s magazine Quarterly MBA Report, Southern California Senior Life, Parenting, San Diego Parent, Mad, Catholic Digest and PURRR. She also researches and writes encyclopedia entries for Gale Group Research projects. These include 23 pieces for Gale Environmental Encyclopedia, 3rd edition, 19 entries for Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health and 2 essays for Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America, 2nd edition.

Her travel articles have included features on France for DogGone and 19 articles about San Diego for publications ranging from FamilyFun to the National Catholic Register.