Although the love of writing as been with me since I was a child, the meaning of success has changed through the years. Early victories included a story in the school newspaper or finishing a draft of my novel , written in girlie scrawl in a blue line, black marble hard cover notebook. Later, it meant degrees in journalism, a job as a magazine editor, and traveling abroad for work.
Today, success translates into working on my own terms, so that I can dedicate substantial time to my young children. It means making a full-time salary, but working far less hours than in previous years. It means being my own boss.
The transition to my home-based writing business came with the birth of our first child and plans to buy our first home. Not, exactly the time to abandon a steady paycheck!
I began freelancing after working all day as an editor. I sought out jobs in the trades– medical writing, packaging, and cosmetics. These were areas where I had worked as an editor and knew the subject matter and audience. The assignments came with low fees, yet I was determined to finish them on time and accurately. After all, I had a reputation to build.
This required long hours, many times after the baby (and my husband) had gone off to bed. My desire to work my own schedule helped me navigate the rocky way. One job, an ill-advised book project taken solely for the money, turned into a nightmare. In the end, this became a powerful lesson. I learned to listen to my inner voice and not be blinded by a potentially substantial paycheck.
From the beginning, I viewed my writing as a business, myself as the CEO. I set up with an accountant and stashed away estimated taxes, kept logs to track assignments, submissions, invoices and expenses. As my regular freelance assignments grew, I left my full-time job.
The road has been winding, but the work has been plentiful. I continually seek opportunities to expand my writing into parallel markets. For example, I wrote ophthalmology and the publisher also had magazines on oncology, infectious diseases, and children s health. So I picked up assignments in those specialties, too. A former editor moved from a trade magazine to the medical device company. I now write for that company. Ophthalmology often deals with lasers and some cosmetic eye surgery. This parlayed into the cosmetic surgery markets where I receive occasional assignments. Even my first job as an assistant editor for a pharmaceutical magazine still helps me. I frequently do pharmaceutical writing for another medical publisher.
Growing up as a girl in New Jersey, I never dreamed of becoming a medical writer. Now, I find that the living is good and it affords me the freedom to explore other writing passions, like essay writing.
I began submitting my own commentaries to regional newspapers only after reading many samples. Now more than 30 of my commentaries about suburban family life have appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer as well as other newspapers. After sending out essay submissions to magazines regularly for two years (and getting mounds of rejections in the mail), my first one has been accepted by a national magazine.
Having my own writing business also allows me time to work on a collection of essays, and to dabble in other areas. Best yet, I get to attend all the school plays, social activities and doctor appointments I want to without the stress of asking for permission to leave the office.
I just know my boss always says yes.
Lisa B. Samalonis lives in Gloucester Township, New Jersey, with her husband and two sons. She has a master’s degree in writing from Emerson College in Boston, where she learned that a can-do attitude just might be the most important tool in the writer’s toolbox. She has written hundreds of articles for medical and trade magazines, and newspapers.