Late last year, the perfect gig fell right into my lap. Or at least, so I thought.
It's been my ultimate goal to become a full-time freelance writer ever since I started, but the question that kept me up at night was how to guarantee I'd have enough income to afford to do so. Sure, there's a level of unavoidable volatility that comes with being a freelancer -- it's the other side of the freedom coin. But I'm someone who likes having a plan and guarding myself as best I can from shocks, particularly financial. So before I took the plunge into all-day no-safety-net freelancing, I wanted to make sure I had outlets that paid regularly and could provide me with some level of static income that would make ends meet.
And as of December, I thought I'd found it. Through a friend, I got in touch with a website looking to bring on daily bloggers. The workload was quite a bit, but I write fast so I assumed I'd be able to make it work with my other commitments. The pay would have been the same as what I make at my day job, making it possible to step right out of my job into writing with no change in income. That's what drew me to the gig and what made me chase it.
I should have known then that it was too good to be true, but this seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How many shots like this was I going to get? Of course I needed to nail this thing! And, for a while, I thought I had.
A couple rounds of phone interviews and some emails back and forth, and I had a start date. Fantastic. It was all coming together.
Until seven days before I was suppose to start.
One week before my start date, I emailed my contact to touch base. And I was told this person was no longer going to be with the site, and given the contact information for the new managing editor. Who promptly ignored my emails. Wonderful.
But that's not all. Along with my touching-base email, I sent in a list of ideas for my first week. Within 36 hours of my sending that list, an article went up on the site that was identical to one of my pitches. Sure, a case can be made that it was a coincidence, but it left me with a very bad, exploited feeling. At that point, the new ME hadn't even responded to my email asking if I was supposed to start turning in copy the coming Monday. The whole thing was one big ball of stress.
I was a lot of things at that point. I was mad, hurt, and feeling very vulnerable. I had put all my eggs in one basket, and now that basket proved to have one very huge hole in it. My goal of going full-time freelance in June seemed to disappear before my eyes, and I was seriously let down. It was stupid of me to hang so much on one gig, but that didn't make me feel less angry.
So what did I do? The next morning, I shot off an email letting the site know I was no longer interested in being considered for the position, and thanking them for their consideration. I left it at that, knowing I'd never hear from the ME again. For a few days those feelings of anger lingered, but eventually the cloud cleared enough for me to see that it was hardly the end of the world. In fact, I let that one strike feed my ambition rather than torpedo it.
And now, two months later, I'm once again on track to go full-time freelance in June. It wasn't easy, but I managed to make up the "lost" income and then some by really hitting the pitches hard and taking the time to hone my approach. The biggest win, though, might be that I did land a daily contributor slot with a site I was already writing for: HelloGiggles. And given the level of encouragement and support I get from the site, I'd much rather put my time and energy into that community. It's an opportunity I never would have been able to take if the first gig panned out, and being able to be a more active part of HG makes up for the momentary pain I felt in January.
Sure, it's unfortunate that it happened and I'm still a ways from being able to laugh about it, but it all worked out for the best. Now I'm writing for sites and publications that respect me and value my work, and I've been able to chase stories I truly believe in for editors I am so lucky to work with. The ups and downs are numerous in writing, as one would expect from an industry that requires a great deal of trust on both sides of the exchange. But one down doesn't define a career, and I learned that the hard/best way.
Bridey is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C.
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