First, a huge thank you!! to the students who’ve signed up and found value in my new webinars and one-on-one coaching — from Australia, New Zealand and across the U.S. It’s been a lot of fun and a resounding success.
I also coach individually by phone, email or Skype, happy to read your material and work with you on specific pieces or projects you send to me in advance. Email me at email@example.com.
Crafting the Personal Essay, Sunday November 30, 4:00 p.m. EST, 90 minutes.
It looks dead easy to bang out a personal essay, but it’s not! Great personal essays combine the deeply specific with the universal, the unique-to-you with the immediately familiar to a wider audience. I’ve published mine in The New York Times, Marie Claire, Smithsonian and others. My essay about divorce won a National Magazine Award — for humor! I’ll share tips and tricks to help you craft your essay into a compelling, powerful, saleable piece.
Writing for A-List Clients, Saturday December 7, 4:00 p.m. EST, 90 minutes.
Ready to run with the big dogs? You’ll learn here what editors of the most demanding publications want and need; my work appears regularly in The New York Times, as well as reported stories and essays in Marie Claire, Glamour, More, Ladies Home Journal and Cosmopolitan.You’ll learn how and when to pitch, what every pitch must contain — and the one guaranteed way to get an editor to read your pitch.
You, inc: The Business of Freelancing, Saturday December 14, 4:00 p.m. EST, 90 minutes.
Do you fantasize about working at home in your PJs? But how to drum up the thousands of dollars you’ll need every month to pay your bills, buy health insurance and keep building your retirement funds? How much to charge? How and when to negotiate a higher rate? How many assignments can you juggle at once? This practical, tips-filled class shares my experience of working for decades as a successful and productive full-time freelancer.
If there is a current cri de coeur of the creative crowd, this is it.
Much as we might fervently wish for it, there’s no separate gas pump with a 35% discount just for painters or a 25% off aisle at the grocery store reserved for musicians or a 50% off sticker affixed to our phone, electricity or insurance bills.
Our costs are the same as everyone else’s.
So this piece in The New York Times, although hardly a new thought, hit a nerve:
NOT long ago, I received, in a single week, three (3) invitations to write an original piece for publication or give a prepared speech in exchange for no ($0.00) money. As with stinkbugs, it’s not any one instance of this request but their sheer number and relentlessness that make them so tiresome. It also makes composing a polite response a heroic exercise in restraint.
People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing.
They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors…” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.
I like to see how many comments Times pieces elicit; as I write this, so far, 493 people have weighed in. That might be a record.
This hit a chord with me, again, when yesterday a local attorney — who drives a lovely Mercedes — asked me to have lunch with her daughter so her daughter could ask my career advice.
I met the attorney because I interviewed her, (a paid gig, of course). We have no social or other relationship, but it’s a very normal expectation I want to share my 30 years’ expertise and insight without payment because….?
I don’t want lunch.
I want to be paid.
I grew up in a family of freelancers. No one had a paycheck, pension or paid vacations. Our earnings relied on our talent, skills and ability to negotiate a payment that made sense to us. It did, providing us with nice clothes, decent used cars, international travel, a home with a mortgage, i.e. a middle-class to upper-middle-class life.
This fantasy that creative people are eager to slurp ramen into our 60s or beyond is just weird.
Like that Times op-ed writer, Tim Kreider, I’ve also turned down many “offers” to go and speak unpaid — from the Retail Council of Canada (!), with no offer to pay my travel costs from New York to Toronto — to a local alumni group of a prestigious university who recently “invited” me to spend four hours of my time on that event, so I could sell copies of my latest book —at a discount.
None of which earns me a dime.
People wouldn’t ask their physician, dentist, accountant or attorney to come hang out, without compensation, for the afternoon.
As some of you already know, I’m an award-winning journalist who’s published two non-fiction books of national reporting and writes frequently for The New York Times. My work has appeared in publications in Canada, (Chatelaine, Flare, Toronto Life, Maisonneuve , etc.), the U.S., France, Ireland and New Zealand, including The Wall Street Journal, VSD, Marie Claire and Ladies Home Journal.
I’ve also taught journalism at Concordia University in Montreal, New York University, Pace University and The New York Times Student Journalism Institute. I also recently taught the first webinar here at Kristen Lamb’s online conference, WANACON.
I’m offering six webinars:
Think Like a Reporter
Finding and Developing Story Ideas
Growing Your Blog
Writing for A-List Editors
You, Inc: The Business of Freelancing
Crafting The Personal Essay.
Each is 90 minutes in length, half of which is saved for your questions and comments.
They range in price from $100 to $200; details, prices, dates and sign-up are all here. After you’ve registered, I’ll email you each directly with the sign-in location for the webinar.
The first is Sunday November 3 at 4:00 pm. Eastern time.
Finding and Developing Story Ideaswill be helpful to anyone who’s freelancing, or hopes to. I’ll talk about which ideas are best suited to websites, newspapers, magazines or non-fiction books — sometimes all of these.
Three recent students say:
“By any metric, Caitlin soars as a teacher, especially her sincerity and kindness. Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Caitlin embodies that – with the experiences she can share, the skills she can teach, and lives she can change.”
— Amer Taleb
Caitlin is an exemplary mentor and teacher. She doesn’t just provide excellent training for the exacting standards and requirements of journalism and authorship, but shares her experience and knowledge readily, offering real, pertinent information and how to use it.
She invests herself in those she teaches, helping them to develop the wide array of skills and instincts they will need to succeed in any area.”
— Cadence Woodland
“I enjoyed Caitlin’s presentation very much. As a journalist with only a few years experience, I appreciated her willingness to share her expertise and experiential wisdom. She made herself available for questions afterwards, which was particularly helpful. Her experience was insightful. If you have a chance to take a class with her, don’t hesitate. Great value.”
— Lisa Hall-Wilson
If you have any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope you’ll sign up — and please spread the word!
People who choose self-employment often focus on the freedom — No office! No boss! No politics! No commute!
But successfully running your own show requires a wide range of skills beyond the specific product or service — dog-walking, gluten-free cupcakes, general contracting, writing — you’re hoping to sell.
Here’s a great post from one of my favorite blogs, Freelance Folder, on this topic, which lists 17 separate skills with a link to even more:
Communication skills. Freelancing is all about clear communication. As a freelancer, you must express your ideas and requirements to prospective clients, current clients, and other freelancers.
The first one can be a real toughie.
Once you’ve established a good working relationship, and a track record, with your clients, you’re usually good to go. You probably speak the same language, emotionally, so you click naturally in your communication style.
But to steadily earn a good living will also mean working with many people quite different in their style.
Would-be clients are busy with competing demands and may not communicate quickly, clearly — or at all! I see many emails from fellow freelancers asking when, if and how often to follow up with a pitched idea so we can close the sale (or not), find out the fee and budget our time for the work and the income for our expenses.
Follow up too often and you’re a stalker. Not often enough and you’ll starve because you can’t keep enough work coming in.
Whenever I start working with a new client, I ask a few questions about their communication style: do they prefer phone or email? Are specific days or hours in the day off-limits? How long, typically, does a pitch take to get approved?
When I work with The New York Times — which is almost weekly — I know from experience that my emails often end up in their spam filter due to my email address. So I know to call and leave a voicemail message to follow up.
Estimating skills. How long will a project take? Successful freelancers need to be able to answer this question so that they can schedule their time effectively and still earn a profit.
This is also a difficult one, no matter what you do for a living.
I recently blogged about knowing your CODB, your cost of doing business. So you know what you must make to cover your expenses — but what about short and long-term savings, retirement savings, attending a few conferences every year to upgrade your skills and meet new contacts?
So when someone quotes you a price, or vice versa, never forget all those other costs, not just the short-term gain of that payment.
The challenge of estimating is that it’s one-sided! We know how long we might need to do the work…but what about your client?
Does the work require reviews/edits/approval from several other people? How long will that take? (Can you negotiate partial payment up front?) Are they known in the industry as challenging or difficult?
Ask around so your “estimate” isn’t naively and stupidly optimistic.
Interpersonal skills. The stereotype is that freelancers work alone and don’t need interpersonal skills, but that’s a myth. Freelancers interact with prospects, clients, and other freelancers.
Oddly enough, this might be the most essential skill of all. The (mis) perception of freelance or self-employed people is that we “don’t play well with others.” Which isn’t true at all — if we didn’t, we’d never find or retain satisfied clients!
From the very start of your freelance life, you’re going to need other people to help you: for advice, insight, feedback, moral support, sometimes a shoulder to cry on or to toast your latest coup. Almost every single day, by phone, email or social media, I’m asking for, or giving, advice to someone.
At this point in my career, 30 years into it, virtually all my work comes from established clients or personal referrals to new ones from people they know, like and trust.
So play nicely, ladies and gentlemen! Never steal ideas, backbite, gossip.
And don’t be nasty, even if you’re feeling really shaky and insecure.
So, go out often — at least once every month — to industry parties and events and panels and conferences. Bring a genuine smile, a well-designed business card and a generous spirit.
And look professional! At a recent NYC roof-top event I attended, a woman around my age was wearing chipped red nail polish. Seriously? You need a great/recent haircut (and/or color), polished shoes, fresh mani/pedi (do it yourself, but do it!)
We make snap decisions about people within seconds of meeting one another. Make sure they’re positive.
Do not — I beg you — use the phrase “I’d love to pick your brain”. Ever!
Of course you would.
You think it’s flattering. It’s not, really. Because our brains are already spoken for. Instead, be classy: offer to pay us a consulting fee, make a useful professional introduction or buy us a good meal. Don’t be cheap and assume it’s our job to mentor you because you’re needy. It’s not!
And don’t become the whiny/negative/raggedy/sloppy person whose calls we dodge and emails we delete.
If you’re self-employed, what skills do you find most essential to your success?
Measuring productivity is central to economic policy — it’s especially crucial in the decisions made by the Federal Reserve — but we are increasingly flying blind. It’s relatively easy to figure out if steel companies can make a ton of steel more efficiently than in the past (they can, by a lot), but we have no idea how to measure the financial value of ideas and the people who come up with them. “Compared with the mid-1900s, goods production is not as important a part of our economy, but we continue to devote about 90 percent of our statistical resources to measuring it,” says Barry Bosworth, a Brookings Institution economist who is a leading thinker on productivity in the service sector.
This question is central to my work as an independent creative, a full-time freelancer, whether I’m selling my ideas/skills/time to a newspaper — The New York Times — or a magazine like Cosmopolitan — or a website — like bbc.co.uk, all recent clients.
Or to an individual who wants my guidance on their own material.
Like everyone who works hard for a living, I don’t intend to live hand-to-mouth scraping by. I’ve developed excellent skills and the ability to work on a wide range of projects. But ginning up the income I really want is challenging when I refuse to work more than a 40-hour week and rates are low.
I also — contrary to some beliefs — don’t work 40 hours doing nothing but writing!
Much of my time is spent coming up with ideas, developing them, pitching them, invoicing, filling out administrative paperwork, chasing late payments, delegating to and managing my assistant and working on book ideas and other long-term projects.
I also need to speak to my agent and various editors. I network, in person, on-line and on the phone, with other writers about new markets.
There are many moving parts to running your own business, many of which suck up unpaid time — an opportunity cost in itself. So every hour has to bring in income, shortly or soon thereafter.
If you’re working for yourself and don’t know the costs of every single day, and how much you’re earning in profit (or losing), you’re not running your business efficiently:
Basically it’s a number that represents what it costs you to operate your business for every day that you work.
On a basic level, you add up all of your purchases and expenses to run your business, as well as your salary (I suggest you add your salary, but some people don’t) and divide that by the total number of days you expect to work each year. That will give you a number that is the MINIMUM you must make each day to BREAK EVEN. If you make more per day on average than your C.O.D.B., you are profitable. If you match your C.O.D.B but work fewer days than what your expected, your business is in the red, and your on a path to being out of business…
What has amazed me time after time is how few of my colleagues know what their number is, and how that in turn makes it very difficult for them to grow their business over time – let alone what to charge their clients.
You should know this number by heart as it should help you determine the minimum rates you need to charge your clients on a job per WORKING day, to stay solvent as a business. Keep in mind that if you get paid per SHOOT day – and don’t get paid for treatments, conference calls, research, prep and post – you need to cover ALL of those days in your SHOOT DAY FEE of course. In other words, if you get paid 3 shooting day rates, but you actually worked a total of 12 days between pitch, prep, shoot, and post – you need to QUADRUPLE your DAY RATE (or daily C.O.D.B. day rate) to break even for those 3 shooting days you are actually being paid for.
When people dream of self-employment, they rarely factor in all the additional attendant costs — whether out of pocket dental bills, maintaining their website, attending conferences or upgrading their equipment.
Let alone vacation days, sick days and days-from-hell when you simply can’t get the work in, or done.
A new client has asked me to do some work for him, and he estimated that the $1,000 he’s offered per story buys three days of my time.
Which wrongly assumes he knows my CODB.
Let’s do the math: three typical work days = 21 hours’ total, tops. That’s about $50/hour if I do nothing but his story. Sounds like a lot, right?
Not in my book.
Every hour I devote exclusively to a lower-paying project, (although it might be someone with a steadier appetite for my services or someone more pleasant to deal with) is lost to finding and/or completing something else paying more, possibly a lot more.
It’s a constant juggling act giving everyone good service, (albeit some in fewer hours).
I get asked this question a lot: How do you make a living full-time freelance?
While this post may answer some of your questions, email me at email@example.com, hire me at my hourly consultation rate, and you can ask whatever detailed questions you like! Or show me copy, or queries, or whatever you need…
There are five keystones to a successful freelance career:
1) Get really good at what you do
You might be a writer, artist, musician, hair-stylist. No matter how much you hate your current job, desperate to flee cube-world and commuting, until your skills are sufficient to attract and retain repeat clients in a highly competitive marketplace, you’re not ready for prime time. Do whatever’s necessary to get really good at your skill. If you’re a writer, read smart and helpful how-to books by veteran writers, like this one or this one; attend writers’ conferences, like this one on April 26 and 27th in New York City; take classes, like the online ones offered here.
After your skills are developed and you have multiple clips (samples) to prove it, you’re ready for the next step.
2) Find a network of editors or clients who want your copy
This is a lot of work and requires strategic thinking. If you have a specialty — science, kids, medicine, sports, business, food — it’s easier to target specific markets. Be prepared to be ignored, a lot. Your job, like any salesman, is to pre-qualify your leads; i.e. do they pay enough? Is their contract workable? Are they a PITA to work with? Do your re-con before you pitch to avoid disappointment at best, heartbreak and financial nightmares at worst.
3) Produce great stuff so they want more
Seems pretty obvious. If your work is stellar, (100 percent accurate, properly-sourced, attributed, clean, well-written, intelligently-structured), your odds of repeat business increase. Always under-promise and over-deliver. Never even consider missing a deadline. As you gain confidence and skill, take on some assignments whose scope or prestige or pay rate scare you a little. Don’t risk disappointing your client, but you have to grow!
4) Get to know other writers (or fellow freelancers in your field)
If you’ve done steps 1-3, your name and reputation will begin to precede you, locally, regionally or even nationally. Join as many industry groups as possible, like this one, and this one, for writers, and sign up for as many volunteer positions as possible. Then show up with goods ideas and follow through; too many “volunteers” like to add a nice line to their resume — and don’t do jack.
This way people will get to know you personally, not just as some random photo on a website. I’ve learned far more about who’s really worth knowing through my many years serving on boards of writers’ groups than any conference or quick coffee with someone.
If you’re fortunate, some of your competitors will eventually decide to share some of their own contacts; we all occasionally get overwhelmed with too much work and not enough time, or fall ill, have family emergencies or take vacations and need to refer clients to someone we know will do a kick-ass job on our behalf.
The smartest freelancers who reach out to me for help, advice or a contact include several offers of their own contacts in that initial email. Of course I write them back right away. Who wouldn’t? Just because you need a lot of help doesn’t obligate anyone to give it to you!
The fourth step, referrals to good clients, only comes after people know you are consistently ethical, smart, reliable and generous. That means plenty of number three. People talk; make sure what they have to say about you is what you’re hoping for.
The job of marketing never, ever stops. Your clients’ needs change all the time as gatekeepers and decision-makers get hired, fired, promoted or demoted. Their budgets may bloom, or wither or disappear altogether. Be sure to make nice to some smart, ambitious young ‘uns, even if they’re your kids’ age. They’re probably the ones signing the checks, if not now, in a few years.
In just three words, there’s the huge chasm between the trusted, experienced freelancer, the one you’re happy to hear from when she has a new idea, and the newbie or the short-term maximizer. Those guys have to start from scratch, each and every time.
Think about the individual, the entrepreneur or the small organization that has built up trust with a given market, that has permission to talk to that market and that has the expertise to execute on what it promises… Once you have those three, you call the shots. If, on the other hand, you’re merely a hard-working employee, doing what you’re told, you’re never going to get what your effort ought to produce.
who is Nate Thayer thinking so highly of himself and better than us? This makes sense; we like to think ourselves better than others, not the other way around. We also really don’t want to think about how working hard =/= success. It scares us and once you add some jealous, thus in short, we decide that Thayer is uppity, unrealistic, ungrateful, and possibly lazy.
There’s a larger issue here, and I’ve addressed it before.
The world is filled with people who think they are Writers because they bang away at a keyboard for hours. I wish good luck to everyone. I do.
But none of the most deeply thwarted or unrealized ambition — and there is enough of it to light L.A. for a century if converted to electrical power — justifies trashing someone who has actually succeeded in the field. Someone who (!) chose to turn down an offer of $125,000 from The Atlantic to turn out six stories a year.
Dozens, if not hundreds of writers I know, would kill for such an opportunity and will never ever get it. Not because we suck. Because it’s one of the very few well-paid spots ever available to any writer, with a Big Name Magazine that many people would also kill to even write for and will also never get the chance.
Whaddya mean I can’t get it?
This is a deeply un-American thing to say. It flies in the fantasy that we are all — yes, we are! — such special little snowflakes that we will all get a ribbon or a prize or a trophy just for showing up and trying really really hard.
It does not happen that way. It is just not going to happen for many people.
This week on Facebook I’ve watched a former journo crow with (well-deserved, hard-won) delight that she is now casting major stars for her network television pilot. Do I wish I were in her shoes? Hell, yes!
But I’m not. And hating and trashing her for achieving something I’d reallyreallyreally like to have, but do not have and may never ever have?
So those who are busy sucking their thumbs and clutching their blankies and hissing that Thayer is possibly
“uppity, unrealistic, ungrateful, and possibly lazy.”
need help, my friends.
He wants to earn a living using the skills he’s spent decades acquiring.
And, no, I’m no longer working for this client. They did pay me the full amount they owed for all the work I’d done, and sent the check Fed Ex — which I insisted on — and they graciously actually did.
The great challenge of working freelance?
When do you stand up for yourself?
When do you accept crap without complaint ?
I started freelancing as a magazine and newspaper journalist when I was still a college undergraduate. I needed that income to pay my bills, for tuition and books and clothes and housing and food, with zero financial aid or any help from my parents. My writing was not some cute hobby or unpaid internship or spare change I planned to blow on shoes or partying. This was the cash I needed to support myself.
So I learned at a very early age to negotiate, to ask for what I thought was fair. I once overheard an editor begging a fellow freelancer, (a man, older than I), not to quit his weekly column, for which he was getting — in 1978 — $200/week. She was paying me $125. I was 19.
Lesson learned. You can’t get what you don’t ask for.
But you can’t ask for what you don’t know is possible.
Every woman working for income needs to read this great book, “Women Don’t Ask”, which teaches women to negotiate (better) and explains culturally why we often just don’t even try. Men usually do!
Like many self-employed people, I work alone in a super-competitive field, one (journalism) that is shrinking and whose pay rates have been cut in recent years even as our living costs soar. That means being up to date on what’s happening out there with my colleagues.
Are they getting screwed, too? (Often, yes. When I posted the comment above on Facebook, I quickly got sympathetic replies from peers across the nation with similar stories.)
Standing up for yourself, all alone, is scary.
If freelancers, (some of whom just refuse to stand up for themselves), just keep on accepting the bullshit — “Oh the person in accounting who writes the checks is on vacation” –– you’re going to be a broke, angry, bitter doormat. The people feeding you this BS certainly got their paychecks! Their lights are on, their phone bills and rent paid.
But if you fight the bullshit and demand better treatment, even politely at first, people can dismiss you as a diva, never work with you again and tell everyone they know you’re a pain in the ass.
The past few months — probably like many of yours as well — have been an emotional and financial roller-coaster:
— a new-to-me client decided my story was unacceptable. I lost $1,300 of the income agreed to and expected.
— another new-to-me client assigned an on-line slide-show that sounded easy-peasy, even though I’ve never done one. Hardly. Learning how to work quickly and efficiently for web clients is a learning curve.
— I’m on my third New York-based assistant since May and she’s getting busier with competing projects. Bright, ambitious people, (bless them!), move up quickly. My Toronto-based assistant is good, but really busy and costs $3/hour more.
— I decided to up my speed while walking to burn more calories, (the endless weight loss drama), and woke up crying in pain at 4:00 a.m. I’m fine, but it meant a week of zero exercise while my new hip calmed down again.
— My gynecologist put me on the scale and I hadn’t lost an ounce since my GP told me to shed lots o’ pounds few months ago. I’m torn between frustration/anger and fuckitIdon’tcarenanymore resignation. I loathe dieting and am so scared to injure myself by pushing my new hip too hard, with another five months before it’s 100% healed.
— I’m applying for a competitive annual journalism fellowship again, fearful I won’t even make the finals. But you can’t win what you don’t try.
— I decided against applying for a local award that required a $100 entry fee. Sure, I’d like that line on my resume, and I had a great story worth entering. But $100?
— I’m really getting fed up with the old-school thinking in my industry. Several of these awards and fellowships refuse to accept book chapters in lieu of printed clips from magazines or newspapers clips. Few freelance journalists can afford to write much for print anymore. We’ve had to migrate to writing for the web to make steady, ready cash.
— My toughest challenge? Guessing when, how often and how hard to push,whether for payment, a sale, higher rates. For every editor who says, gratefully “I’m so glad you reached out. I’ve been too busy but I’ll get back to you next week” another snarls “We’re closing three editions at once.” With 90% of our interactions by email, not phone, establishing any sort of a more personal, collegial relationship sometimes feels impossible.
Push too hard, lose a client. Play doormat, go broke.
— Late payments make me insane. I have a five-figure line of credit, at a usurious APR, which I try to avoid using. So I try to schedule my workflow and payments to insure that every single month, enough checks arrive, (they’re almost always on an out-of-state bank) in time for me to pay my bills promptly. One check arrived recently almost seven weeks after invoice. None of my creditors will wait, but I’m expected to.
— Balancing my short-term, medium-term and long-term goals often feels unmanageable. On any given day, I’m juggling all three: make money, line up more work, apply for awards and fellowships with hard deadlines, manage two assistants, squeeze in a personal, social and athletic life, keep a home that’s clean, tidy and attractive, keep my marriage happy, nurture professional and personal relationships. Oh, yeah and lose a ton of weight.
I’m trying to plan a conference for next spring. I’m still serving on a volunteer board. I’m still promoting my new book, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail”. I want to have a book party for its Chinese release in March 2013 and wonder if I can sweet-talk Hong Kong friends into holding it for me. And how exactly will I pay for this?
— Promoting my book to keep it visible and selling. Between October 24 and January 24, I’ve got five speaking engagements, one in a distant state. Every day I spend a few hours trying to think of other venues for this, preferably ones that pay. I was so o and e I managed to fill out and return the wrong contract to one group. Boy, that looked professional!
— Still, a year later, trying to finish the proposal for (what I hope will become) my third book.
— Trying to figure out when and how to re-balance our investments so we might actually, one day, be able to get off this hamster wheel and afford to retire.
— Reading newspapers, magazines and on-line to know what’s happening in the world and what markets I want to sell to as a writer have already published.
— Another freelance friend, 10 years younger, tells me she’s putting away $20,000 to $30,000 a year for retirement. How is this possible? Our expenses are cut to the bone as it is and we have no kids, while she has two.
— Trying to re-sell “Malled” to a Hollywood agent to snag a film and/or television deal. My agent is handling that, but I need to keep on top of her activities.
— Coming up with ideas for stories (see: cashflow.)
— Refining and developing every idea into something salable, with emails and phone calls to make sure that sources are on-board, available and interested (all unpaid time), before I make the pitch.
— Planning (hah!) a long foreign vacation for 2013. Hoping to hike the Grand Canyon with my Dad in May, then Europe with my husband in June. The money for this will come from….? Freelancers get no paid vacations, so every non-working hour has to be earned/saved in advance.
So, I’m fleeing!
I’m heading back up to Canada next week for 10 days alone in the desperate hope of some true relaxation. I’ll house-sit for my Dad (off sailing [sigh] with my two younger brothers in Turkey.) I’ll go biking. I’ll head into Toronto to see dear old friends and enjoy a few good meals.
I realize that I don’t really want to “have it all.” Or, rather, the phrase “having it all” is different for everyone. For me, it means having a balanced life, as a writer and wife and mother and woman. A high-powered career doesn’t interest me, though I wouldn’t want to stop working completely.
Michael and I have always wanted the same, basic things: marriage, children, a house, fulfilling careers. When I was 5 years old, I wanted to be a writer. When I was in college, I wanted to be a writer. Now? I’m a writer…
But then I think about how Michael’s carrying me. How he’s carrying us. And not wanting “it all” (in the conventional six-figure sense) makes me feel guilty.
This writer says she makes about $30,000 a year, working mostly part-time.
That’s a fortune to some people, but not in many parts of the United States, unless you own your home outright, pay almost no property tax and feed your family from your own food production.
Without a significant additional income from your spouse, you’re going nowhere fast.
And husbands know it.
Her post spoke to me because my annual income for two years, also as a freelance writer, was less than $30,000. Things have improved for me since then — my income doubled between 2008 and 2009, and I’m up 11 percent over 2011, with four months’ additional earning power before year’s end.
I still earn far less than my husband — who, thanks to his newspaper union, is stuck with measly 3 percent raises year after year.
So, who’s more “successful”?
Is money our only, our most accurate, measure of worth?
Ask a teacher or those working at lower wages doing essential work…
I began writing for a living in 1978, in my final years of college. Back then, $1/word was normal pay. It was also plenty — my share of the rent was about $300/month and my only other bills were food and phone. Today, costs are way up, I want to retire, (i.e. must save a ton of dough), and many editors pay the exact same wage. Many talented, experienced writers are hustling harder than ever for less money than we made a decade ago.
But many of us, watching some of our peers hit the Today show or best-seller lists, also feel driven to make big bucks, with or without kids, because we can. Our incomes prove our bona fides as smart, ambitious, driven, feminist.
What if we don’t want to?
That’s a pretty radical statement for women daily exhorted on all sides to Do It All. As many women doing it all know, (those without 24/7 nanny care or family support), it can be a recipe for exhaustion.
We don’t have kids, (by choice), nor must we support broke parents; my father and mother are well-financed and Jose’s parents long dead.
So whatever income we scrape together is up to us to negotiate. In our early years, we had some very bitter fights over my inability to earn a lot more than I do. Now Jose gratefully accepts what I earn, even if it’s less than my income from 2000, when we met, and I had a $1,200/month client for about a year. I recently — after many tough years without one — snagged another.
It’s difficult not to feel really frustrated sometimes. We’re in our 50s, not 20s or 30s with decades ahead of us in which we want to workworkworkworkwork.
Like many people our age, and in our industry, we’re both doing our best to adapt, but we’re weary of trimming our sails or savaging one another for our stagnant/falling incomes. It’s been too easy to turn that frustration on one another.
From The New York Times:
In the first quarter of this year, per capita disposable personal income was up just 4.7 percent from four years ago. That is the smallest such gain since the late 1940s, when the number was influenced by the fall in government spending after World War II. Adjusted for inflation, the average American now has income that is 2.1 percent lower than four years ago.
Do you significantly out-earn your husband or vice versa?