I am a freelancer writer. I make a decent amount of money per month writing my brains out for several clients.
Like every writer, I started out as a dreamer when I was young. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Most of it was fiction, bad fiction based on TV or books I read. I read at least twice of what I wrote, actually; the librarians smiled at me because every week I’d leave with a new grocery sack of books way above the reading level of my peers. Amusingly, reading was the only thing I really excelled in at an early age – it took a few years of struggling with even basic math and spelling before I got it down and started excelling.
My first major accomplishment as a writer was writing a 50 page paper on horses when I was 8 years old – and no, that number wasn’t inflated by font size or margins. I genuinely typed a 50 page booklet on horses, everything from evolution of the species, to color and markings, to different breeds, to sports and more. I didn’t do it for school, or on request; I simply wrote it because I loved horses. I imagine part of my motive was to simply compile all the data I was reading into a single handy reference document. It never occurred to me I was doing something many adult want-to-be-writers would never do.
As I became a teenager, I began to take my writing more seriously. In the back of my head I wanted to be a writer, but a few issues of Writer’s Digest convinced me I could never make a living doing it. So while I planned ahead for other careers, I spent all my free time absorbing books and writing passionately. I broke into poetry. I became determined that I would write a fantasy novel, since that’s what I enjoyed reading. I hoped to be as good as many of the writers I admired, who are too innumerable to list. Really, how can people list one favorite author on a profile?
Around the time I was 13 or 14, I joined a writing group online. It was an e-mail based group, which would send in pieces of their work for feedback, and writers would then help each other by acting as editors and critics. I helped with editing and critiquing, until I dared to share my work with the group. It was torn apart – not in a violent, evil, “you suck as a writer” way, but in the way all writers should hope to have their work torn apart, piece by piece, turning over every period and letter for improvements hiding beneath.
I was not ready for this type of feedback, however. I could dish it out, but I couldn’t take it. I crumbled, quit the group in tears, and vowed to quit writing. I had my first writing heartbreak.
The writer in me wasn’t dead yet, however, and soon I was writing again privately. That is until I discovered a little writing website called Stories.com (now Writing.com). I was nervous, but I joined, submitted a few pieces of my work, and cowered in fear of what would happen. To my surprise, I got positive feedback!
I spent over a year at the site, building writer friendships, working on improving my writing through gentler criticism, participating in contests, and learning to offer good feedback in return. I even came in second place overall for an online poetry slam. But what real magic happened on this website was something that gave me the confidence cornerstone I needed as a writer: I got published.
The story was one of my first complete short stories (I do not write them often, even today). It was a story of a man meeting a unicorn in the woods in autumn (of course), loaded with some very powerful imagery and allusions that I am still proud of today, especially given my age. The publication was a small e-zine that also went to print. Although I have my contract, I sadly never received the promised print copy of the zine and the zine soon went under, its editor disappearing from all contact. But it didn’t matter: I got published.
For many years following, writing was as turbulent as the rest of my life. I started and stopped, felt inspired and quit, on more than one occasion. My writing mirrored my life, not so much in content as it did in character. I pursued many different careers in searching for “the right one.” In college, one of these was journalism, but I quickly gave up on it after discouragement from others and being disgusted with the heavy TV/radio focus that my schools offered. In the back of my mind, however, I was always linking my current career path with how I could write about it.
At age 22, I moved out of my parent’s house and a few states over to marry my husband and start a new stage in my life. Things were still tumultuous, and for a while, the only real writing I did was fan-fiction. As I started growing up and dealing with my problems, I started thinking more about becoming a writer – about turning that childhood dream into something.
So I began freelancing in earnest after discovering Associated Content (AC). I really didn’t know what to write about, so I wrote about anything that struck my fancy. I was impressed with myself for making money – any money – on my writing. Soon I also branched out to Helium. There were times I got discouraged with writing, but I pressed on, knowing that pennies or not, I was earning applicable experience in what I wanted to do. Moreover, I was happy – something that had eluded me for a long time.
As my confidence in writing freelance grew, I started seeking out more freelance work, but I hadn’t found a field I could write specifically in. Then it hit me, as I watched one of my game reviews on Associated Content (this one here) was garnering a lot of page views – a lot more than any of my other work ever had. As feedback rolled in, it clicked for me – I was good at talking about video games!
I was still new in the field though, so I started my own blog at a site that offered to pay $1.00 per post. I decided my spin would be girl gaming, so I created Venus Gaming. I enjoyed writing on a daily basis, and started learning my voice. I started a trend of reading up on the video game industry every day. I was finding a niche that worked.
In early 2009, my work life was becoming to come into serious question due to medical issues. I just couldn’t hold it together at a “regular job” long enough. In an attempt to make something out of myself while struggling with medical issues that didn’t seem to want to let me work a regular job, I started looking again for writing opportunities, and that’s when I found Examiner. I applied in April, and to my shock and delight, I was hired on as a local MMORPG (massive multiplayer online roleplaying game) Examiner. I was in heaven.
As I began writing for Examiner, I was still pressing on trying to find a “real job” that would work for me. To my surprise, however, I was earning a lot of money. Now, a lot of money was $60 for my first month, but considering I could barely make $5 per month beforehand, I was floored. My confidence skyrocketed, and I pressed on.
Over the next few months, my income on Examiner grew as did my page views. Then I began the real surprise – people were coming to me, looking for me to write for them. That’s right; I was getting unsolicited writing offers. And as I began to expand my client list, I realized that this was it – writing really was for me, it was my passion, my life, the work I was cut for from the womb.
Now, I write for four clients, which can be a challenging balance. Some days I work almost 14 hours straight. I don’t make thousands doing it, not yet. But I went from making $60 to $600 in 10 months, and that’s a huge accomplishment. Most writers dream of making more than pennies. I achieved the dream.
In the process, I have gone from a writer, just another opinion, to a respected web journalist and writer. Companies come to me, looking for me to write about their product, to give their product exposure. Editors ask me for “more?” with a hopeful smilie at the end of their email. I get the chance for product demos, interviews, special previews, and so much more – and I’m just a freelance writer, a woman working from home and pursuing her dream.
Am I satisfied? Am I still happy? Most definitely. This is a dream. I may not stay in the video game industry forever, and I am looking for opportunities to branch out “in my spare time.” Writing has given me confidence, energy, and passion back in my life. It has brought back a person I thought I lost in my youth. I’m not letting it go – no matter what life throws at me, this is my calling.